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Limiting legal bills in divorce. What liability is there to pay.

Limiting legal bills in divorce. What liability is there to pay. Can you keep it to yourself? Michael Brennan, an accredited specialist in complex asset cases of divorce at Northwich solicitors Stonehewer Moss cautions those in the throws of divorce to approach the process with care. Michael says, “Until recently a spouse of limited means could look to the state to help pay his or her solicitor through legal aid through the process to settle a financial arrangement. Legal Aid has now disappeared for most cases except domestic violence and the eligibility limits are very stringent. At the time the government reduced availability of legal aid it introduced new court orders in divorce and some other family disputes called Legal Services Orders. Such an order provides a fund to pay the costs of the less well off spouse to a certain stage in the court process. For example a husband or reasonable means might be ordered to pay £4000 or more to pay to be taken through the Court by a solicitor instructed by his wife. Any separated spouse facing such a request should Google a recent high profile case called Vince v Wyatt that is still progressing through Court in which a wealthy ex husband is paying for his wife`s solicitor.”

There are a number of competing principles to balance when considering whether to request or defend such a request for a legal services order, as follows:-

  1. You cannot keep it to yourself in the sense that secrecy and lack of full frank and clear disclosure in divorce is likely to both increase costs and cause the Court to make costs orders against the party failing to act appropriately;
  2. A non committal approach to separation, burying your head in the sand, is likely to miss opportunity to settle efficiently as encouraged by the Court rules. Such applications should not be made prematurely and rules require efforts to settle out of Court by mediation or collaborative law. Public funding is available for mediation to those without means without proof of domestic violence. Ensure the mediator chosen has a legal aid contract for mediation. The initial meeting is free for the spouse of a legally aided party.
  3. While not necessarily a last resort, remember that Rule 28 Family Procedure rules provides that spouses should usually pay there own costs. The rules about Legal Services Orders are detailed about steps that ought to have been considered before making the application and best advice is to instruct a solicitor to scrutinise those steps.

Michael comments, “Many spouses do bury their heads in the sand at such a stressful time but it can be a lost opportunity and some creative thought about the issues can help to resolve financial affairs in divorce efficiently. Judges no doubt are more inclined to make a Legal Services Order against a non represented person of means than one who is seeking to resolve the case with his own solicitor and a constructive approach. Anecdotally, it seems these orders are becoming commonplace in London and it is not the formally legally aided that are seeking them, it is those of higher net worth.”

Remember, solicitors specialised in family law can often advise upon fixed fee arrangements and may discuss funding options with a prospective client. Limiting legal bills in divorce. What liability is there to pay. Questions best asked before the Court is telling you in the face of a process that might have cost much less both financially and emotionally.

For more telephone Michael on 01606872200 e mail Michael.brennan@piplaw.co.uk or visit www.stonehewermoss.co.uk

 

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