Reconciliation or divorce - The first interview

At first, your solicitor may talk to you about the problems which have occurred, and ask you if there are any prospects of reconciliation.

Some solicitors feel that it is not their responsibility to enter into detailed discussion on these subjects.

They might even take the view that you have come to them for divorce, and that is exactly what you will get. But these days, family law solicitors are usually ready to discuss problems and possible solutions with you; they are also anxious not to push you into a decision which you are not ready to make.

Solicitors are becoming more and more aware of the psychological effect of marital problems and divorce, and of the emotional trauma which you might well be experiencing.

It is always extremely difficult to talk to a complete stranger about the most intimate details concerning the problems in your marriage. see

Many solicitors, when you make the appointment with them, will ask you to write to them giving basic details - the date of the marriage, your age, number of children, financial details (such as the income of you and your spouse), value of your home, amount and nature of your savings and so on.

Sometimes, you will be asked to jot down what you think has gone wrong in the marriage, and what has led you to consult a solicitor at this time.

Some people are happy with this method, preferring to write volumes to the solicitor and feel reassured that the solicitor will know practically the whole story before he or she even starts the interview.

Other people feel constrained and unable to put anything but the barest financial details on paper before the meeting.

Do whatever comes most naturally to you.

Generally, your solicitor will be anxious to put you at ease and to ensure that you feel able to ask any questions which arise.

Most family solicitors offer their client a cup of tea or coffee, then start the interview by taking down basic details which will help them gain a picture of the family and its financial structure. This will also help you, the client, settle down and form some view about the solicitor and his or her approach.

The information you will be asked to supply will vary according to how much you supplied in advance. However, it will be along the following lines:

(a) Full names of yourself and your spouse;

(b) Address of yourself and your spouse;

(c) Occupation of your spouse;

(d) Dates of birth and full names of all children;

(e) Details of previous marriage(s) of you and your spouse;

(f) Details of children of previous marriage(s);

(g) Nationality;

(h) Details of your family; (1) Details of your spouse's family.

Your solicitor will also ask you for as much information as you can supply about the family finances, for example:

(a) Your income;

(b) Any benefits in kind from employment;

(c) Your partners income

(d) Any benefits which you or your spouse derive from employment, such as bonus, free lunches, company car, expense account;

(e) Any private income to which you or your spouse are entitled; (1) Any income from any other source, such as any other business,

employment or investment;

(g) A list of your capital assets;

(h) A list of your spouse's capital assets, including savings account, bank deposit accounts, stocks, shares, houses, boats, jewellery, premium bonds etc;

(i) A list of insurance policies, property overseas, any other assets (realisable or not;

(j) A list of debts: joint debts and debts in your sole name or your spouse's sole name, for example bank overdraft, Barclaycard debt, Access or any other credit card, HP agreement, loan agreement ? secured or unsecured ? department store charge card, and so on.

As well as trying to build up a full picture of the family finances, your solicitor will also want to know what has made you decide to consult a solicitor and what has gone wrong with the relationship, so as to advise you whether you have a basis on which to obtain a decree of divorce.

At the end of the first interview your solicitor will advise you of your statutory rights and duties and will usually give you some idea of what might be a likely financial arrangement and how that can be reached.

Your solicitor should discuss with you the manner in which your spouse or spouse's solicitor should be approached and may well suggest marriage guidance or some form of counselling if you have not already considered it.

The first interview is also the time to discuss legal costs and eligibility for legal aid. You should be aware, before consulting a solicitor of the fixed-fee interview scheme.

Legal aid can help you pay for legal advice, mediation or representation in court if you can't afford it. This could include help for housing, debt, work, family, benefits or education problems. You can also get legal aid if you're accused of a crime! See

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Reconciliation or divorce - the fixed-fee interview

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