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What are we each entitled to in our divorce settlement?

What does the law say about how to split the house, how to share pensions and other assets, and how much maintenance is payable.

What steps can we take to reach a fair agreement?

The four basic steps to reaching an agreement on divorce finances are: disclosure, getting advice, negotiating and implementing a Consent Order.

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A Consent Order is a legally binding document that finalises a divorcing couple's agreement on property, pensions and other assets.


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Solicitors Estimates

  • njwh
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19 Apr 12 #324928 by njwh
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Interestingly in the Reynolds case, the judge stated that there was no doubt that the solicitor had done the work and that the charging rate had been reasonable, but the key question was "what, in all the circumstances, is it reasonable for the client to pay". The appeal judge found that the original Costs Judge had been correct in giving weight to the original estimate and therefore dismissed the appeal bought by the solicitors in the case. This case seems to have clarified the situation highlighted in Wong and Mastercigars (which I gather is still rumbling on!). I don''t think many clients would consider asking a costs court to dismiss their solicitors fees in their entirety but simply to hold the solicitors to the estimate provided and on which basis they were engaged.


The earlier comment about a builder providing an estimate about a garden wall only to discover that the garden is much bigger is, in my opinion, not all that helpful. You would expect the builder to provide an estimate ONLY after seeing the extent of the work required and then stick to the estimate. Solicitors provide an estimate only after a meeting with the client to discuss, in depth, the circumstances of the case and should have extracted all of the relevant information. Very few divorces are straightforward and solicitors should know that there may well be problems with disclosure etc and factor those in - particularly when their client has highlighted potential difficulties with their ex.

An experienced solicitor (and only those should be providing estimates) should have sufficient experience to be able to see potential problems and advise the client accordingly and take this into account when providing an estimate. They should not, as my solicitor did, regard the estimate as a STARTING point! IMHO, £39k simply to get to the FDA is ridiculous (4 year marriage, no children and I did an enormous amount of work to minimise my fees) when they had quoted £5-10k plus VAT and Court fees i.e. £12,800. Unfortunately it is that type of sharp practice which gets solicitors such a bad name.


I never expected my rather uninteresting divorce to end up with me reading judgement after judgement on costs cases!

I''m sure that this is an argument which will run and run....

N
:woohoo:

  • somuch2know2
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19 Apr 12 #324936 by somuch2know2
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I choke everytime I see a bill from my solicitor. I cant believe I get charged for every email, and then those forwarded onto the barrister- surely i could have just cc''d her in and saved myself £20.

I think there MUST be a stop to people getting solicitors and not paying until the sale of the house, or until settlement. This means the person not paying frequently can rack up needless amounts and not be too worried about agreeing settlement.

I firmly believe that if my wife had to pay costs monthly we would have settled- or at least started. Nope- I am instructed to speak to her lawyer. Complete arse

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19 Apr 12 #324954 by .Charles
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The earlier comment about a builder providing an estimate about a garden wall only to discover that the garden is much bigger is, in my opinion, not all that helpful. You would expect the builder to provide an estimate ONLY after seeing the extent of the work required and then stick to the estimate.


And therein lies the problem. You know the extent of your garden and can show this to the builder. It is unlikely that your spouse omitted to tell you that there is a secret garden or that s/he has sold the garden to a third party at an undervalue.

It is very common for one party to be unaware minutiae of their spouse’s finances. It is quite common for people to have no idea of their own finances let alone anybody else’s.

So, if a client gives instructions which appear straightforward but it transpires that this is not the case and the instructions are inaccurate – the solicitor cannot be bound by the estimate that was given as this no longer applies.

Very few divorces are straightforward and solicitors should know that there may well be problems with disclosure etc and factor those in - particularly when their client has highlighted potential difficulties with their ex.


I beg to differ. A high percentage of cases settle by consent and a Consent Order is obtained without going to court. Most other cases settle after the FDA hearing or at the FDR hearing, also by consent. Even those cases that proceed to final hearing often settle before the judge has heard all evidence.

You talk about factoring in difficulties “particularly when their client has highlighted potential difficulties with their ex” – what happens if those difficulties are not apparent to the client and only occur at a later stage? Are you then happy for the estimate to increase or not? This leads us straight back to the initial point I made above – the solicitor cannot be bound by an estimate where the facts of the case have changed.

Solicitors are required to revise estimates *if the case changes* - this is the protocol that currently applies. Most solicitors fall down by not revising the estimates in good time and they only have themselves to blame. The Reynolds case is different, as I have said, as the initial estimate should not have been given – only a person with a crystal ball can give an estimate to final hearing at the outset of a case.

Charles

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19 Apr 12 #324959 by .Charles
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somuch2know2 wrote:

I think there MUST be a stop to people getting solicitors and not paying until the sale of the house, or until settlement. This means the person not paying frequently can rack up needless amounts and not be too worried about agreeing settlement.

I firmly believe that if my wife had to pay costs monthly we would have settled- or at least started. Nope- I am instructed to speak to her lawyer. Complete arse


This would be brilliant for cashflow for solicitors!

The only difficulty with this suggestion is that it is common for one party to be the main breadwinner and the other to have no access to the assets. In that scenario the person with the money can control the other by cutting off their supply which can lead to a situation where the kids do not get fed, or in a case that has been documented on this site, where the spouse is stuck in a foreign country with no escape from their spouse.

If you could filter out the genuine cases and the money grabbers I am all ears :-)

Charles

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19 Apr 12 #324961 by soulruler
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Where one party has the income and the other does not there is an easy way for this to be sorted and costs to be born up front and this is for the financially embarrassed half of the equation to apply for an interim payment for legal fees.

My husbands solicitors asked for an interim payment for solicitors fees from me as I was holding in my sole name a fund which was leveraged against the FMH sole purpose to repay the debt on the FMH. I agreed reluctantly to the payment on advice of my solicitors - they told me I would look unreasonable if I did not.



I complained to SRA showing double and false accounting, perjury and a whole load more and I was told that my husbands solicitors had done nothing wrong and I got nothing for my complaints - I complained and filed three times before I came to the conclusion that the SRA was only a placebo organisation. If the governement wants to cut costs get rid of the SRA it only offers false hope.

  • njwh
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19 Apr 12 #324965 by njwh
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You raise a couple of good points. However, in my case, my solicitor DID give an estimate to final hearing and is quoted in the press

“A good lawyer…does not fill you with false hope. They aren’t afraid to discuss how much it is all going to cost. They know what they are talking about”

"The solicitor will be able to give a good steer at the very first meeting, having extracted all the relevant information about the client"

and, in their PR material,

"At your first meeting we will outline our likely charges and if possible provide you with an estimated total"

On that basis I felt that I was entitled to rely on the estimate provided.

I advised them my husband would be difficult in terms of disclosure (and, based on the experience of friends who have also gone through a divorce, this is commonplace). Despite there being no ''new'' circumstances in my case, my estimate trebled with NO written warning or explanation as to why the costs had increased so much other than to say that it was ''more difficult than the average divorce''. However, in their PR material, they claim to regularly handle domestic and international divorces for celebrities, sporting personalities, MPS, the judiciary etc. The solicitor also acknowledges that I did a great deal of work and, had I not done so, my costs would have been "considerably higher". Despite paying huge fees, the advice they gave was rubbish and contradicted by not one, but TWO barristers!

I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about it!!

Anyway, currently in discussion with a Costs Draftsman in the hope of resolving this issue based on the Reynolds case.

We ''little people'' are definitely at a disadvantage as the costs assessment process is protracted, confusing and potentially very expensive. I have to take my hat off to Tracey Reynolds - she was certainly a tenacious lady!

:huh:

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19 Apr 12 #324969 by njwh
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oh how horribly depressing! I really feel for you - it''s bad enough going through a divorce without having to contend with what you had to.

I''m never complaining about my husband again! His shenanigans are nothing in comparison.

N

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