Bringing in experts during divorce

In this episode I'm joined by Maura McKibbin, a family mediator, and Victoria Richardson, a family solicitor. We talk about how during the process of going through divorce, you might bring in other experts into the proceedings to give you other viewpoints and their specialised advice and information.


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Victoria Richardson 

Victoria is the head of the family law department at Aticus Law, Wilmslow, having over 20 years’ experience in the area of family law. She specialises in all aspects of family law including divorce proceedings, the resolution of complex financial settlement agreements, dissolution of civil partnerships, children disputes and pre-nuptial agreements. Victoria is a true advocate of resolving matters as amicably and as quickly as possible. She is known for her straightforward and honest approach whilst always offering assistance and support to her clients. 

You can contact Victoria: 

Maura McKibbin

Maura is a specialist family mediator who dedicates her practice to keeping families out of court and who routinely integrates emotional and financial support into her mediation work. Maura seeks to ensure that separated couples have enough support to problem-solve so that they can find solutions together.

Maura’s legal training means that she has an appreciation of the legal issues that are relevant for separating couples to bear in mind as they carefully contemplate their financial separation alongside their legal advice. Maura helps to provide the structure and support for their conversations to take place.

A principal motivation in Maura’s work is to ensure that children have the best chance of good outcomes. She supports their parents to make parenting plans for family life beyond separation. Maura is trained to meet with children who wish to have a voice and she also runs local Parenting Apart Information Meetings which provide neutral, early information and guidance to help parents to parent together beyond their separation.

Maura is a member of the Resolution Parenting after Parting Committee. In addition she writes and delivers training for other professionals who support families facing separation. 

You can contact Maura
Tamsin is a Chartered Financial Planner with over 20 years experience. She works with couples and individuals who are at the end of a relationship and want agree how to divide their assets FAIRLY without a fight.

You can contact Tamsin at or arrange a free initial meeting using She is also part of the team running Facebook group Separation, Divorce and Dissolution UK

Tamsin Caine MSc., FPFS

Chartered Financial Planner

Smart Divorce Ltd

P.S. I am the co-author of “My Divorce Handbook – It’s What You Do Next That Counts”, written by divorce specialists and lawyers writing about their area of expertise to help walk you through the divorce process. You can buy it by scanning the QR code…

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(The transcript has been created by an AI, apologies for any mistakes)

Tamsin Caine 0:06
In this episode of The Smart Divorce podcast, I'm joined by Maura McKibbin, a family mediator. And Victoria Richardson, a family solicitor. We talk about how during the process of going through divorce, you might bring in other experts into the proceedings, to give you other viewpoints and their specialised advice and information. We talk about how this works, how you might want to use the divorce team and how bringing in specialists into the process does not necessarily mean a huge increase in cost. I hope you enjoyed the episode. Let's jump right in.

Hello, and welcome to the smart thoughts Podcast. Today we're going to be talking all about experts and bringing experts in to the divorce process and I've got two fantastic guests with me this morning. My name is Tamsin Caine. I'm a financial planner who specialises in divorce. And I'm going to ask my guests to introduce themselves. So to begin with Vicky Richardson. Hi, how are you?

Victoria Richardson 1:15
I'm Tamsin. I'm very well. Thank you. I'm Vicki Richardson. I am a Family Partner at Atticus law specialising in divorce financial matters and children.

Tamsin Caine 1:25
Fabulous. Thank you for joining us today, Vicky. And I'm also joined by Maura McKibbin, hi Maura, how you doing?

Maura McKibbin 1:34
Hi, Tamsin, I'm good. It's Friday, that always means I work on my own. So I have a practice called more McKibbin Mediation Limited. I am a family solicitor, but not practising as a solicitor since 2007. I have worked exclusively helping people to problem solve around tables when they are separating. So I spent all of my time now working as a family mediator. And I also work as a charge inclusive mediator. So sometimes, hearing the voice of children within parents mediation processes. I'm trained as a family separation coach, and I am a member of the resolution parenting After parting committee. And on that committee, we spend a lot of time developing resources for family lawyers, to help them support parents who are separating

Tamsin Caine 2:30
Fantastic! And there's lots of that I'm sure we can, we can bring into today's conversation, a wide range of experience there. So I'm gonna start with you, if that's okay, Vicky, and just ask you about how the process works. And at what stage you would bring in an expert, whether that's a financial person, an emotional person, or even or a mediator, of course,

Victoria Richardson 2:59
I think generally, to start off with, I would bring an expert in at any point during the case. So a client could come and see me at the initial interview, and it can be as early as that, where I feel that we need to bring some kind of expert in, for example, if they are particularly emotional, than I would tell them to seek out advice, if they are somebody who has been not used to using their own finances and completely unsure as to how to manage them in the future than I would think about being in a financial planner in at that stage so that they work with us as we go through the whole divorce process. If mediation is an issue, or if it's something that's likely to appeal to both parties and be successful, then also I would consider mediation at that stage and advise my clients about the possibility of attending mediation, which I'm sure more will say more about later. As proceedings go through the process. It may well be that depending on the issues in the case, we have to bring other experts and so for example, in relation to soften up financial matters if the parties open and own a business and they are separating, we might need an accountant to value the business. If there is a dispute about the value of the family home, we might need a surveyor to value the family home. We try and agree who those are going to be who those experts are going to be if they can't be agreed the court appoints a valuer if necessary. There are two ways of dealing with the Division of financial issues. The first one is that the parties use family lawyers to an amicable agreement and the matter stays out of court, in which case we can still use experts to obtain the relevant information regarding the value of the assets or you need to have likes the court because either an agreement can't be reached, or you've just really reached a stalemate or one party is very in in their head in the sand a little bit. I'm not responding to any information requests, in which case, you can make an application to the court. So the courts become involved. And at that stage, during certain court hearings, the court will appoint valuers, captains, experts in order to obtain the appropriate information. And then once all the appropriate information and figures are obtained, it's then easier to negotiate financial settlement, it's impossible to negotiate one without all the relevant information being in front of us.

Tamsin Caine 5:41
Absolutely, totally agree with that, because it's a bit like saying, I'll give you half of what's in my bank account. But you've no idea whether I've got five pound 50 Or a million pounds. You just need, as you say, all of the information, and more in terms of mediation. I think the that I'd just like to start off with the the initial question is, people get really confused about where to go first. It's like, should I go to a lawyer first? Should I go to mediator first should go to a bilateral persons there should go to a counsellor. First. What's your view? On where where you should start?

Maura McKibbin 6:18
And I'm going to give that really annoying answer of it depends. I think it genuinely depends. And I think that the most important thing at the beginning, is to get good information, and lots of it. So it doesn't matter if you get that good information from a solicitor doesn't matter if you get that good information from a mediator or a financial planner, or, you know, anybody that specialises in helping families to separate who's doing a lot of the work, we do understand that there are and there needs to be lots of different avenues for people to get stuff sorted out. Yeah. So I don't think it matters where people start, as long as they're seeing a person who can give them lots of information, which is definitely what they need at the beginning, in order to then make informed decisions about where they set off. So if you take the analogy of, you know, just giving someone an Ordnance Survey map, and saying, Okay, off you go, actually, it's not going to be enough, you need to be able to shoot, I mean, they know what their destination is, which is to achieve a good separation for their family in every sense. And but there are lots of different ways to get there. And depending on that person, you need to help them to know, well, which routes Could you take, what do you need with you in your backpack? As you're going, you know, what's the stuff you've lots of support? What do you need with you? And where are you heading, and you need to understand those people or that client in front of you, you need to deeply listen to what they're worried about what their priorities are, what they what their relationship dynamic isn't, has been what their kids need. So you've got to listen hard in order to help them to work out. Okay, so do you need legal advice straight away? And do you even need court proceedings straightaway? Because some people do because they're in a really difficult situation? Or do you? Or could you together, sit down and be helped to sort this stuff out with support. And then actually, from there you're looking at, and it is the presentation I sometimes give to clients who are chatting to me is now if you've got to have an operation, you need a team of people, you don't just have your surgeon, you need nurses, you need people to put you in at the hospital, you need your surgeon, you need your needs assess, you need your aftercare specialist. So separation is, you know, is a team effort. And I think that's what we really need to make clear to clients, and I don't think it matters, money. Right information from someone in that team?

Tamsin Caine 8:59
Yeah. Yeah, no, it really did. I have a question that that's kind of comes up to me quite a quite a lot is about our just how can mediation help people who are who are separating? Because I think there's a bit of a there's a confusion around the general public as to what actually mediation is and how it can help people and I know it can really, really help but think it would be really good if if you could just put a bit of meat on the bones about what the process is in mediation and how it can help.

Maura McKibbin 9:38
Yeah, sure. So I think importantly, before I get to that, it's important to say that mediation doesn't help everybody. So it's one of the range of options and it's brilliant for some people and it would not be good for other people. So it really isn't a one size fits all. It's getting people to the right place. But mediation is a word I are described as a problem solving process. So whether you're talking as parents or talking about your financial separation, or sometimes both, it is about deeper problem solving. And you do that by working mostly round a table. And you are helped by the mediator to prepare to know what to prepare what to bring, how to get yourself ready to have the conversations you're going to have, you have those conversations across a series of meetings. And alongside those conversations, you can access understanding from your solicitors about well, how would the court deal with a case like ours, like what would a judge do with us or what would be the range of likely outcomes for us? So you need legal advice. But actually round a table, as well as having that legal advice in your head and having that understanding, you are looking at feelings of fairness about how stuff gets sorted out, you're looking at on finances, you're looking at the master of how things get sorted out. And you are looking at different options and working out well. If we did this, could that feel fair to you? Would that feel okay for me? Or if we did it this way? What would that be like? Would that work on the mass? And you are it is a team effort in mediation. So you know, you you need financial advice, you need legal advice. People need all sorts of support emotionally. So it is essentially about reorganising family life together by problem solving. That's what I would say it is. And it is it is your solicitor to help you at the end get something that's legally binding. So your outcome is exactly the same i You have your certainty you have your legal certainty in terms of quarters and things. But the way you get there is is very different. So solicitors roles are different when people are mediating. They're not writing letters that they stand down unless you're writing negotiating piece and they are advisory and drafting. And instead of all the letters, people aren't being supported to talk. So that's that's how I describe it. But it is it problem solving is a key, you need to be willing to do three things. If you're mediating, you need to be willing to both come to mediation, you need to be willing to both enter into problem solving, and negotiating and churning out ideas and different options. So you and you need to be willing to compromise. So if you're willing to do all those three things, you're comfortable to work in that problem solving environment, then mediation could be a good option.

Tamsin Caine 12:46
Fantastic. And I guess when when we decided who we were inviting along to this podcast to have a conversation. As about experts, I kind of hadn't sort of thought I'd thought of Becky's referring to yourself as a mediator. But I guess I hadn't thought of it the other way around. Just Is that something that happens quite often, Vicky?

Victoria Richardson 13:13
It does actually, it's certainly a two way process and our clients, Tamara and say these parties, you know, are good prospects for mediation, and she will assess them appropriately. And, you know, very often they'll come back to me later on down the line with this is what we've agreed. And I think at the moment, in particular, because there are such long waiting lists. If you have to go through the court process, it's a very good, good option, we you know, that we try and sell as much as possible to our clients, it's always better if they can reach something amicably between themselves with a mediator. It's quicker, and it works out cheap for them. So it's a very, very good option. Obviously, it's not appropriate for everybody, and certainly where there's domestic abuse cases it isn't. But there are also mediators, and I don't know whether more you're one of them, who do shuttle mediation whereby the parties aren't happy to sit in the same room as each other. Because they just don't feel comfortable. But they would sit in separate rooms and still enter the mediation process. But But yes, certainly. Yeah, it comes back to us later down the line when the parties have reached agreement. And our job then is to draw that up into a financial legal agreement, which is approved by the court and everybody moves on.

Maura McKibbin 14:28
Yeah, and I think just to sort of jump in there, Vicky, I think it's it's good to mention the different ways that you can sit round tables because you can stick round tables with your solicitors. In a roundtable meeting. You can sit round tables with a mediator, you can sit around different tables with a mediator shuttling between the two rooms and there are there are circumstances where that's just going to be a better option for some people. And you can integrate solicitors into that shuttle arrange Then which, I mean, there are lots of labels, I think they're all really confusing for clients. But the reality is if the clients are sitting separately to mediate, and one of them would feel reassured, reassured by having their solicitor with them to get their advice on the spot, as part of that circular arrangement, sometimes both clients, then that can be a super way of helping people to sort stuff out. And that's not necessary at every meeting. But there'll be key meetings where if you can integrate the legal advice and clients assisting in different rooms, that can be really good. So there are loads, there's lots of flexibility. And that's why I think the important thing at the beginning is to listen really hard to what people are worried about what feels important to them, and so that you can offer them the best fit. And you know, I think as professionals, we we love labels, we give every process a label. Clients just want to be helped, don't they? And they're not so worried about what things are called, I think it can be quite overwhelming. But we know how to put the building blocks together for them because of our experience. And and same for you, Tamsin? I mean, you know, you know, you know, when your bid would add value, you know, where you need to come in. So, it's our job as the team of professionals to work out what clients need, when who they need to see when,

Victoria Richardson 16:27
For example, had a great mediation just before Christmas, both parties were legally represented, but they were so far apart from terms of financial settlement, but both reluctant in a way to engage in court and the court process because they knew how long it would take. And it felt like we'd been in negotiations for probably a couple of years anyway. So they both agreed to go into mediation with their respective solicitors. It took all day, and it was everyone was exhausted. But by the end of it, we had an agreement. And that would, you know, that would still be going through court now, that would try to be a nine to 12 month to go through the court process. We did it in a day with, you know, with a mediator who went between the two of us, and then we went around the table to discuss any options and hammer it out, as they say, but yes, it was very successful. So it worked. As you said, Mara, there are so many different ways of doing it. If, you know, we do have plenty of clients who feel that they need the support of a solicitor or financial planner with them, just to make sure that they are making the right decision because it can be quite overwhelming for people.

Maura McKibbin 17:31
Yeah, it can. And I think as well, that what what I think probably doesn't happen enough, either is that sometimes people need emotional support in order to either be helped through a solicitor led process or be helped through mediation. And sometimes people need emotional support and preparation for they can even begin to doubt any sorting out. So actually helping people to work with parenting coaches or with therapists, in order to allow them to move through the part of them the emotional recovery journey, because very early in emotional recovery journey, there can be a lot of loss of strong emotion. Yeah, and there's a lot of strong emotion, including fear. Fear is a massive emotion in separation. And sometimes for people, it's overwhelming the thought of going into it as Lister or going to disintermediation, it's terrifying. So actually, there's a massive part to play I think therapists, parenting coaches, coaches can help people enormously as part of the journey of being able to engage fully in a process of sorting stuff out.

Tamsin Caine 18:50
Yeah, absolutely agree with that. How on earth somebody could can make, you know, life changing financial decisions, when they're emotionally supercharged is it is beyond me. And I think it's, it's almost that should be the starting point is actually, we should perhaps be looking at rather than and I know, people want to gather information and issue set bar, I think that's really, really important. But I do think first step is almost right, let's go in, say a lawyer or a mediator. And actually, perhaps the best starting point is more going to see somebody who can emotionally support you to, to almost remove them.

Victoria Richardson 19:32
I've had numerous clients where I've said to them, I can't help you yet. It's just I need you to go and get some really intense counselling. Whatever I say to you is going to go in one ear and out the other you're not able to emotionally process it. Yeah. And come back because you're in note, obviously, it depends on the client, but they're in no great rush to deal with anything immediately. Go away and come back, and they do and you see them getting better and stronger as you go through them. process, you know, more often than not quite, you know, I think clients often say, come back in a few weeks when you've had some intense counselling and bring somebody with you, you know, so that you have two sets of ears. I suppose they're experts in their own way, whether they be a mother or father, brother, sister, because they provide the emotional score. And the practical is really fun, isn't it?

Tamsin Caine 20:22
Yeah, absolutely. And I do think that that family support. It's sort of takes you to like that hospital scenario that Maura was talking about before, where you need a team of different people around you in an if a doctor is delivering some very serious news to somebody about about an illness, they have to do normally suggest bring someone with you, because you can't take on all of the information if you're in a heightened emotional state. So I think that's, that's really good advice. And you know, I don't know of any professional working in divorce, who wouldn't be more than happy to have another person with them if that's what the client wanted. So I think that's I think that's absolutely spot on. We've kind of talked about this, this team of people, and whether we're working in mediation, or we're doing the whole process through solicitors, we have got this team. And I think it's important for us to deal with the elephant in the room, which is all around cost, because that's it a huge concern when when people are going through divorce. What's your experience more in terms of bringing other experts in? We've talked about this team, and whether that ends up leading to a much greater cost for the client?

Maura McKibbin 21:40
Yeah, I think I think I can answer that, quite simply, I don't think it brings extra costs for the client, because we're doing different things, as a team of people to help the client, we're not doing the same thing. So for example, if I've got clients who are going through a financial separation process, I will work in conjunction with a finance for someone who's financially specialised, because the main job they're doing in that process is a financial job. Yes, there are legal aspects to it, yes, there are emotional aspects to it. But the figure understanding the figures, crunching the figures, looking at the options, looking at the financial consequences, so it's not going to be me that specifically does some of that work, because that's not my expert area, and I need some more financial to co work with me. So I will be sending clients, I'll get them to a point, then I'm going to be sending them off to someone I know and trust. And I know what that work that person's going to be doing with them. So I know where my line ends, and their line starts. So actually, we're, we're suitably dovetailing people from one place to the next with care. And, and actually with a lot of understanding, because you don't want people to feel like they're being passed from pillar to post, and you don't want them to worry, actually, there are loads of people in the throes of costs. So actually, it's all about talking to people about cost, it's about making it really simple. And we can do that we can easily make it simple to tell them Well, this is how this is going to work. And this is how the cost of this are going to work on that. So it's about how we communicate with people about cost. So I know there's a big worry about cost, you can't separate without spending money on your separation. But in fact, it's about helping people to get the clutter that the help they need cost effectively at the time they need it. And I think we're really well placed to help them to do that. And to offer them reassurance about about how much it's going to cost. And when I'm working with people. And actually when I send out information about costs, in my in my notes, I say to people, if you want to keep cost down for my process for mediation, you need to do what I'm asking you to do. You need to prepare the stuff I asked you to prepare, you need to have it done in time, you need to send it into me. So I've got time to have a look at it before our meeting. And so we're all in this together on keeping costs down. I'll do my bit you do your bit, and I'll help you to know what that is. So yeah, people need a lot of reassurance, people are terrified about costs, absolutely terrified, but they need to get through and out of the other side. And so there's there is a way to do that. I think, from experience as a solicitor, I worked for a long time as a sister like Vicki. And I say this to clients now in mediation, where costs spiral out of control. It is very often the case that there is high emotion in that case, a lot of high emotion. And so actually it going back to the point about how do you help people emotionally to cope better with separation so you can do your work with them? That's key, I think and to helping people because you need to not take all your emotion as a client, you can't avoid having lots of emotion you separating, it's normal. But you need to not take all of that emotion into your solicitor's office, because actually, that's not going to be the most cost effective place for you to get that help. And that's not the right place. That's not the right Eric mutualists can help you because they will be empathetic and caring and experienced at helping people through emotional process. But their skills there is helping you with the legal bits and them and the therapist or the coach, their skill set is to help you to cope better with the emotion. And your solicitor will work better with you if you're coping better. So is there's clients have a lot on their plate a lot. And I you know, but I think we've got the expertise to help people to be in the right place at the right time with the right expert with the right person helping them and that will make it the most cost effective way through

Victoria Richardson 26:01
If you start from the beginning to explain to clients and I do exactly the same as more that, you know, the more you cooperate both with what's asked from you, from you, by me by the court by the other side, that will keep your costs down because we didn't how much time is spent on your file as far as possible. You know, so the last time that we have to spend, the better, and the time that we're spending needs to be productive. So that's one way and I also would the cost estimate and explain to clients that that should include as well disbursements, which are your expert fees. So from quite early on the initial meeting, I don't have an idea as to what experts I will need. So you know, whether mortgage advisors, for example, you can just send to clients separately, and their fees can be relatively small, but maybe important accountant information that's required or an actuary, and I have an idea already how much that will cost for parties need to instruct on it those. So it's all about being realistic. And I keep clients digest what it will cost. And then I also say some, nobody, for example, paid for a wedding for 20,000 pound by just handing a cheque over you pay it by instalments, you know, um, you pay set up direct debits for what you can, there is litigation funding available in quite a lot of cases whereby we get funded, and then you pay it back there are. So there are ways and means of funding your case. And I think a lot of people probably don't realise how they're paying their fees until the end if they just pay something monthly trying to keep up to date with it. But there is a lot that clients can do. And we try, obviously, and use those experts who we know are very reasonable with costs, and we'll deliver on time because that's important.

Maura McKibbin 27:48
Yeah, and I would just flip it around to ask you a question, Tamsin, because you obviously, you know, it's your absolute bread and butter to be helping clients gather information together financially, and to be able to share understanding and enhance knowledge and understanding around that for both people, which, which is so so for you, that's the most cost cost effective, you are the person that knows how to do that to do it in the quickest way and the easiest way and therefore the cheapest way. And so from your perspective, can you talk a little bit about about that, that will be helpful as well, I think.

Tamsin Caine 28:25
Yeah, absolutely. I think we were brought in as as financial planners, by lawyers, and mediators, all all sorts of different stages during the process. And I think traditionally, financial advisors have been used right at the end of the process. So once the divorce is done, the financial consent orders are sorted, you've got your pension sharing, ordering, and the something to implement. So a pension needs to be brought from one person to another person, for example, that's kind of traditionally where we come in. From my perspective, I prefer to start working with people right at the beginning of the process, because I think that's where we can add the most value as you say more when we look at financial information, people's costs people's expenditures, every single day, if if every single year because that's that that is our bread and butter, and we can also help people to understand their complicated products that they've got. So pensions, which blow most people's minds, that's, those are something that I look at every single day and I can hopefully explain what they are jargon free as possible, and go through them and explain what they do and how they work and so on and hopefully demystify them a little bit. So from my perspective, I can work with people right from the beginning of the process help them to pull their income expenditure assets liabilities together so that information is clear to the mediator or to this list. that they're working with. And we would work with them all the way from from there, right until the until the end of the process. And, and I think you're absolutely right in that, if everybody's working to their own skill set, then I actually think it can be a lot cheaper to work with a team of people, because each person is doing the things that they're best at. And when you get to the end of it, you're likely to have a much clearer position, and you're likely to an effect without wanting to suggest that people are rushing it. But I think actually it can work, which quickly is certainly because the court processes is quite protracted at the minute with the courts being so being so full as well

Victoria Richardson 30:46
I can try and say, I have a lot of clients who will say to me, I can't afford a financial planner that you know, this is going to cost me a fortune, I cannot. But you know, more often than not, and I will say to typically wives, for example, who don't have the financial had husbands always dealt with the financial issues, you can't afford not to, you know, a good financial planner, will help them from day one, get all that information together. Otherwise, I've got to do it. So you're, you're not duplicating costs in that respect. And they thought of the process and help them find the best deals for them, and also plan their life moving forward. And, you know, we need to know from financial planners, what a client's future looks like, Can they afford to live on the spousal maintenance that they are going to receive? Can they afford to buy another property? What is their mortgage costs going to be? So? You know, quite a lot of cases, they can't afford not to have them?

Tamsin Caine 31:44
Yeah, absolutely. What I'm interested what, what do you do when a client refuses to take your advice on on needing an expert? Because, you know, I quite often come across clients who who have, and this is the one that seems to occur more often than not, is around getting a pension on divorce expert report. So they're, they're not necessarily in the court process, but they're like, Oh, we don't need one of those. How, how do you go about dealing with that? I'll start with you, Vicky.

Victoria Richardson 32:20
And obviously, it depends on whereabouts you are in the process. So it's certainly not unusual for me to be advised by clients, we don't need, we don't need that, because she's not getting my pension. Which is for me to manage. But other other times you come back to the address it so initially, they will say. And then you say okay, I'll leave that for now. But then further down the line, you'll come back to redress it again. It's our job to give advice. Yeah. And it's my job to obviously acting on instructions as well. And ultimately, if they don't want to instruct an actuary to obtain a pension report, the other side is going to make an application to the court where the court is going to order one. And they will they will have no, no say in that process. But increase the legal fees, it will take longer to sort out. So it's the way you advise your client. And hopefully, our job is to tell them, that's what they need. And they listen, if they really don't want to listen, well, there's an issue as to whether you want to continue to act for them if they come for advice, and they're not prepared to listen to what you're saying, because they just wasted money.

Tamsin Caine 33:29
Yeah, absolutely is that situation you've come across more?

Maura McKibbin 33:33
It's less likely, I think, in a mediation process, if people are working cooperatively together, because I think once we've got an understanding, and that might be from so for instance, to take the pension pension aspect, which is the one you've given the example of, and it's a really good one, because they're often assets that people don't didn't really look at their pensions on a regular basis. They don't always understand what their pension products are. And also particularly on separation, there are things to know about pensions. The about pensions and separations are really important. So I think in a mediation setting, I think it's less likely to occur that someone would dig their heels in in that way. One of the things I tried to do early is to link people up with a financial expert for nothing more than a than a sort of broad chat about the relevance of pensions on separation, different types of pensions and the stuff that crops up because actually, if you can give people understanding of why pensions are important. I think that they're more likely to engage with conversations and social around sorting out and and looking at it with someone. And I think I mean, there will always be circumstances there probably much more in your office Vicki than in mine. But there always been circumstances where people can be bolshie and just say well I'm not giving disclosure about that, because they're not having anything or, you know, people can be defensive or cross all sorts of emotions in separation. And and if I get that scenario in a mediation because I'm not giving legal advice, what I will always say to those people is, right, well, I've heard everything you've said around it, I'm going to do a detailed note about it, that notes gonna go back to your solicitors. And I want you to take their legal advice, both of you from your separate solicitors about what what conversations you've had, and how they want to advise you to move forward. Because if I don't have cooperative people working in mediation, I won't be working with them that the mediation will fail. So it goes back to, you know, Vicki's office for one client and the other and the other person taking it back to their, to their solicitor for advice. Because what I will say to clients, if someone's not really willing to open up and consider what they need to consider on pensions is, look, your solicitors are going to make you sign a disclaimer, because they can't work with you unless there's full knowledge around all of the assets. So if there isn't, then they're either not going to be working with you, or you're going to be working with them with a disclaimer saying they haven't been able to give full legal advice, because either they don't have your information, or they don't have the other person's information in order to properly understand the financial scenario. It does present present problems that can present problems.

Tamsin Caine 36:31
And I think this in a way goes back to costs again, doesn't it? Because if you if you're being advised to to instruct an expert, because they're going to be able to provide the information that is required in the process, if you keep saying no, actually it could then inflaming the cost because you may have solicitors letters needing to go back and forward, which obviously there's a cost and, and in the end, if you're trying to go through a mediation process, or having your lawyers negotiate between them, if they can't get you to agree to get the information, such as a pensions report, that may end up in court, and then again, the costs will will end up being being bigger. Evacuate, we often hear about when I say often I mean, I think we often hear about it, just because they these things tend to get tweeted when they when they you know, get out of control. But but we do hear about cases where each party is perhaps spending kind of six figures on a on the legal process of getting divorced, what things would you suggest that people might be able to do to, to not go to that extent, in terms of costs,

Victoria Richardson 37:45
I think it's really important, not more sad earlier in that costs tend to spiral out of control. When emotion is involved, you know, because it's very tough increase when solicitors, for example, are writing letters backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. And that tends to be because our clients instructions to respond to what the other parties say, in an aggressive way. And shouldn't say you know, they shouldn't say this, that's not right, we need to do that. And it's quite often solicited, allow cost to increase correspondence going back with a voice and Note Pro, no progress has been made. And I think it's really important to explain that to clients and say, Look, we can write all the letters you want, I can write all the letters you want me to write to a certain extent, because there are certain letters and certain tones that I'm not prepared to go there with. But ultimately, you're going nowhere, and you're just going to increase your costs. So I think it's important from day one, spelled out to my clients that let's try and take the emotion out of this, I'm not going to respond to every single letter, I will respond to what I think is appropriate. And I'll respond in a way that moves things forward. There's sometimes comes a point in cases whereby, for example, mediation is not appropriate. You have sent several letters to the other side, and you're not getting really any anywhere constructive, that I will then send to clients. It seems like an acrimonious way of dealing things. But I think we need to advise the court. And that is to get it on a timetable, because both parties have to do certain things by certain dates, and it has to be dealt with. And yes, costs can increase by going to court because in some occasions, you replicate information that's already been produced. But in other ways it moves things aren't quicker, because people have to focus and it stops wasting costs from one side to the other. But certainly the more you can agree and be civil. I don't expect people to be amicable when they're in the situation but civil and respectful to each other will certainly bring your cost down immediately. Even such things as do we really need a surveyor to value the family home or can you liaise and arrange for three estate agents to come around and value the property it's it's such items like that there are always going to be in asset cases, experts that you need, you know, accountants, financial planners, pension experts, because the parties wouldn't be able to agree with that themselves. But there are also other ones that the parties can liaise about and keep their costs down as a result.

Tamsin Caine 40:20
Fantastic. Ladies, simply by coming to the end of the at a time together, I'm not really quite sure how that set happens rapidly. But I wondered if either of you just had any final advice or tips for our listeners? More? I'll come to you first.

Maura McKibbin 40:38
Yeah, so I'm my my, my tip is really about teams working. So I think when you know, when we talked at the beginning about where can people access information to know where they're heading, how they're going to sort things out who's going to help them, I think it is really important for people to have this clear message of, I'm going to need a team of people to help me. So that might be it might be a parenting coach to understand the impact of this on our kids, it might be financial coach or expert to help me better understand how the finances look, it might be some therapy support for me as an individual to help me to move through all of the different emotional stages of separation, it might be my solicitor, it might be a mediator at certain points to have help us to have conversations together. So it's to get that team in place, so that you can be helped and supported to work through family separation in the least painful, least damaging way to your family, because and I think actually to think about as well, how you work how you move through this whole sorting out process as time efficiently as possible, because being in limbo is really bad for separating families. The uncertainty is crippling, and the fear is crippling. And so yeah, get your team in place. Find someone to help you early to give you lots of good information so you can make good choices for your separating family.

Tamsin Caine 42:13
Fantastic advice. Follow that Vicky.

Victoria Richardson 42:21
I think Maura's said it all very succinctly, I would say to anyone who's going through this process, just us we will not bring in experts. Unless we think that it's going to add value to your case, we will only deal with who we were not going to deal with every single expert there are only going to be a couple of experts that is appropriate to your case. And buy letting us do that will actually reduce your costs and reach a solution quicker.

Tamsin Caine 42:50
Fantastic. That is brilliant advice. Thank you so much for joining me and thank you for listening. And please join us again for our next episode.

I hope you enjoy the episode of the Smart Divorce podcast. If you would like to get in touch please have a look in the show notes for our details or go onto the website Also, if you are listening on Apple podcasts or on Spotify, and you wouldn't mind leaving us a lovely five star review. That would be fantastic. I know that lots of our listeners are finding this incredibly helpful in their journey through separation and divorce and dissolving a civil partnership. Also, if you would like some further support, we do have Facebook group now. It's called Separation Divorce and Dissolution UK. Please do go on to Facebook search up the group and we'd be delighted to have you join us. The one thing I would say, do please answer their membership questions. Okay, have a great day and take care!

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