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It’s worth getting divorced just to use SME


It is widely known that the removal of legal aid from the majority of family law cases has meant that more and more people believe that they simply can’t afford legal advice when divorcing. This means that an increasing number of people are trying to tackle the single opportunity they have to sort out the complex issues around the appropriate adjustment of their family assets without legal advice. With a typical house in the Midlands worth from £250,000 upwards and taking account of the value of pension funds after 20+ years of marriage upwards of £750,000 or £1 million of assets are being tackled with no specialist advice. In ten years’ time we face dealing with the scandal of divorcees realising that they accepted poor deals without advice. Not many people would take their own teeth or appendix out. Not many people tackle their own plumbing and dealing with electrics is a no-no so why take the risk with your future housing and pension provision?   It doesn’t make sense to deal with these issues without proper advice.

So what is being done to make advice available to everyone? When complaining about the cost of legal aid prior to removing it the government did not conspicuously mention that in a large number of family cases legal aid was actually a loan which was ultimately recovered in full. Since the removal of legal aid a number of lenders have recognised the gap and the need to permit access to advice so have started to offer finance packages to suit.

A couple of years ago the family lawyers’ specialist association Resolution got together with Iceberg Credit to develop a new and innovative service specifically tailored to the needs of the family law client and exclusively available to solicitors who are members of Resolution. SME Solicitors is pleased to confirm its support for and participation in this initiative.

As members of Resolution our clients enjoy access to the Iceberg product “Client Credit” with benefits including instant access to finance. Client Credit has been designed around the needs of separating clients. Unlike other types of finance, there are no application fees and, because loans are unsecured, clients do not need to take independent legal advice. It is easy, inexpensive and quick to open an account with a maximum duration of 36 months which is more than enough time to sort out the vast majority of even complicated cases.

The account can be used at any stage of the proceedings and covers costs in relation to all aspects of divorce and cohabitation including child matters and disputes over property.

The lender has recognised that clients facing divorce often experience a period of emotional and financial turmoil making the use of traditional credit scoring techniques ineffective. Instead the lender relies on our assessment and understanding of the client’s case to identify those clients who can reasonably be expected to repay the account, usually based on the anticipated value of their divorce settlement.

Settlement doesn’t always take the form of cash so the lender also recognises that for many clients it may take time to sell property or otherwise refinance the family home. As a result of its relationship with Resolution Iceberg will always try to work with the client to find a solution including, where appropriate, allowing additional time to pay.

Now here’s for the SME difference….


AT SME Family Law we want to shatter the belief that getting the lawyers in adds to the pain, hikes the cost and crucially slows the pace to a crawl. How many people say “My lawyer was good but slow, didn’t return calls, took ages to deal with letters….”? In part that belief comes from the traditional assumption that the lawyers can raise the temperature and drag it out because they have no incentive to get the job finished. Most lawyers put their rates up every year so the longer it goes on the richer the lawyer becomes. Well – that’s not the case with SME! We take a constructive non-adversarial approach to all cases which helps to get the job done quickly but we back it up by committing to try to get every job done in less than 12 months so that our clients can get on with the rest of their lives. Obviously we can’t control the other party but we will stand by our own commitment and once we have agreed a charge rate at the outset we guarantee that in divorce matters we will not increase prices for the duration of the job so we certainly have no incentive to let it drag on.

Ian Stirzaker

February 2017


Ian is the Senior Partner and Head of Family Law at SME Solicitors. Please contact him or Joanna Gardner for specialist help and advice in all aspects of family law at  or



Added: 27 Feb 2017 15:09

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