One of the first concerns for anybody contemplating a divorce is the cost of it. Unlike other disputes each party pays their own legal fees regardless of success in the case. The issue of costs needs to be addressed immediately by the solicitor in relation to the divorce the Children Act proceedings and any financial settlements that may arise out of the dispute. Costs can vary enormously depending on the complexity of the case and time spent by the solicitors acting in the case.
The Law Society does not allow firms of solicitors to operate a “no win no fee” arrangement. So a party contemplating divorce either has to fund it themselves or is at the mercy of the public purse. Here at Mario Montana Solicitors we do not operate the Legal Aid Scheme. All our clients fund their own cases after we advise them of our charging structure in advance. We provide them with a client care letter as required by the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct setting out the terms and conditions which they understand accept and sign and only after this is done will we act for them.
At Mario Montana Solicitors our experience and charging rates are very competitive with comparative solicitors firms offering the same service in the West End or City.
Readers should be suspect of any solicitor who brags an exact sum for handling the case. Many solicitors will advise their clients of different strategies throughout the case be it for the divorce itself, the negotiations over the children or the financial settlement that will follow. However, having said that an experienced solicitor should be able to provide rough estimates as to how much it will cost taking into account the principles of proportionality.
Readers should be also be suspicious of people providing legal services who estimate costs to be low when the assets are of a high value and there is acrimony at stages before lawyers are involved over the arrangements relating to children and the division of matrimonial assets. Fees tend to run high when the parties are in dead-lock and even the simplest of cases can run into thousands of pounds especially when contemplating the likely complications that will be envisaged. Conversely, be wary of the legal adviser who will quote you an hourly rate and will be prepared to run the legal bill up so much that you end up having to sell your home to pay the bill! We have actually experienced a client who had to do exactly this to pay her previous solicitors’ bills. Unfortunately for this client because there was not equity in her home to settle the bill she declared herself bankrupt.
Ways to Fund your Case
Firstly the Legal Aid Scheme may be able to assist if the party applying is financially eligible.
Secondly, your bank may assist in providing a loan or overdraft facility which will allow you to pay your solicitors in the normal way. Depending on the bank and type of arrangement it is also possible not to make payments of capital and interest which will simply accrue until the case settles. However, the bank will usually want an assurance that as soon as you have received your expected financial settlement the debt will be cleared. The obvious danger in this arrangement is that your settlement is less than the debt owed to the bank.
Court Order – Thirdly, depending on your position your solicitors could make an application to the court for an order for funds to be made available either out of your spouse’ income, or by some capital distribution arrangement in order to meet costs. This is usually a very difficult order to obtain and the solicitors acting for the applicant party must refuse to enter into a Sears Tooth Agreement.
Fourthly, the Sears Tooth Agreement is a deed of assignment document which gives the client’s financial settlement to the solicitors to clear the outstanding legal bills when the case is over. After deduction of the solicitors costs the residue will then be given to the client.
Clients should be careful of entering into a Sears Tooth Agreement with taking independent legal advice on the content of the document itself. (i.e. by another firm of solicitors). If the solicitor presenting the Sears Tooth Agreement does not insist on this it will be could be unenforceable in court if there is a dispute about it later because of the conflict of interest between the client and the solicitors. This would also be an indication of the solicitor’s experience in family matters.
It is most important for the client to keep closely informed as to costs on a regularly basis throughout the case. There is no point avoiding the topic of costs as sooner or later it will become an issue, possibly a dispute and then another court case, which invariably will mean more legal fees to pay.
To get a clear idea of costs involved in family matters please contact Mario Montana Solicitors for a free 30 minute consultation.