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Are you planning to get divorced?
It is best to get the finances resolved after the conditional order (previously known as decree nisi) has been granted. Any order or consent order made at that time will take effect after the final order (decree absolute) is granted. This is the pattern usually suggested as it avoids further claims being made, e.g. if the house is sold now and one of you squanders your share, there is nothing stopping them for asking the court to award them more from the remainder.
You are best advised to get everything resolved in one order, property, incomes, pensions, savings, belongings etc.
Yes, apply for the divorce, and then when the conditional order is made, then make the applications for the finances to be resolved.
Yes, most solicitors will ask for a payment on account and bill you as things go on. Some may offer fixed fee options to undertake specific work, and some may take a small payment up front and agree payment later on. It really is a matter of speaking to the solicitors of your choice and finding out what options they offer.
You can, of course, make the applications yourself if you don't want to instruct a solicitor.
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