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Self Repping at Final Hearing..Help needed!

  • charlie
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06 Aug 07 #1776 by charlie
Topic started by charlie
Hi guys,

Well i'm just three weeks away from my final hearing and starting to panic.

I've spent months reading up on divorce on various web sites and forums - but its just starting to hit me that I'm still not sure how best to present my case at the FH.

I need to submit a skeleton arguement I believe.

So i'm starting to write that - but i'm not sure what kind of language to use.

Also i'm worried about the actual process in the court room. I read somewhere that the applicant gets to present their case first - then is all the evidence questioning. And that as respondent I do not get to present my full case til nearer the end. Is this right? :dry:

It sounds pretty unfair - by the time i make my case we will have had 2 days of her side dragging my every action over the last 10 years into question. It seems somewhat unfair - but then the whole system has been biased all along - so I expect nothing less :angry:

Anyhow - now is not a time for griping, its a time for coming up with some bloody good arguements!

And before u all point out the obvious....no i cannot afford legal representation...I am paying interim 60% SM and so am totally broke. My ex2b on the other hand has probably twice my income (when u include benefits and the SM from me) yet is fully funded through legal aid !! Another example of the crazy bias in the system.

Any Mckenzie friends with nothing to do on Monday in 3 weeks time?? ;)

I am pretty resigned to getting completely shafted, but still have to go through the motions I guess.

  • LittleMrMike
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06 Aug 07 #1778 by LittleMrMike
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Charlie,

First of all - you should note the following case. It should help you.


Following the Court of Appeal judgements in McFarlane (the accountant) and Parlour (the footballer) clients may have gained the impression that income post divorce should be divided equally. The rationale is that the spouse should enjoy an equal future income because of her/his contributions during the marriage. Certainly advocates on behalf of wives, have been "trying their arm" and arguing for high maintenance awards.

However, a recent case on appeal from the Bath County Court to Mr Justice Coleridge VvV (Financial Relief) 2005 2 FLR 697 confirms that there is no expectation of equality of income in cases where incomes are not significantly large.

After a 30 year marriage the husband had net income of £5,588 per month and the wife £250 per month, a total of £5,838 per month. The District Judge awarded the wife £1,750 so that she had a total income of £2,000 being 34% of the total income. On appeal Coleridge J increased this to 40%. He increased it to reflect the wife's contributions to the marriage over 30 years. He did not increase this to 50% in recognition of the fact that the parties were no longer in partnership and the husband was to be the person generating the income.



Difficulty is, I don't know anything about your circumstances. However, you should most definitely familiarise yourslf with the statutory criteria which a Court is required to take into account if you are considering self representation, and consider how they apply to your case.

You should not allow the hearing to be sidetracked into issues of conduct. They are almost certainty irrelevant.
Just mention the House of Lords decision in Miller v Miller - you can find this on the House of Lords website. A judge will know exactly what you mean.

The issues are, what are your wife's needs ? Are they reasonable and can she justify them by evidence ? What are your own needs ? First of all, can you afford accommodation ? Is it reasonable to expect your wife to work, even if only part time ?

This issue of needs is crucial. As a personal view, I have always believed that the law should make provision for some minimum level of protected income for the payer of maintenance, and the Court should not be permitted to make an order which would take the income of the payer below that level. But it does not, and you need to remember that ' the system ' assesses tax, and entitlement to benefits, on the assumption that you still had the cash. For example, in my case, my age would entitle me to higher personal tax allowances, but my gross income is too high. However if
what I have to pay in maintenance is deducted, I would be below the level, and would get the higher allowances. Not very fair but no good complaining about it, you get nowhere.

You don't say if you have children. This matters. Does this 60% that you talk about include child support ?

Charlie, I don't know. It is hard to suggest arguments when I know very little. If you are a high earner, even 40% would probably leave you with enough. But I do know that you must concentrate on your needs, and you must be in a position to justify those needs by receipts and proper evidence.

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06 Aug 07 #1779 by LittleMrMike
Reply from LittleMrMike
Charlie,

First of all - you should note the following case. It should help you.


Following the Court of Appeal judgements in McFarlane (the accountant) and Parlour (the footballer) clients may have gained the impression that income post divorce should be divided equally. The rationale is that the spouse should enjoy an equal future income because of her/his contributions during the marriage. Certainly advocates on behalf of wives, have been "trying their arm" and arguing for high maintenance awards.

However, a recent case on appeal from the Bath County Court to Mr Justice Coleridge VvV (Financial Relief) 2005 2 FLR 697 confirms that there is no expectation of equality of income in cases where incomes are not significantly large.

After a 30 year marriage the husband had net income of £5,588 per month and the wife £250 per month, a total of £5,838 per month. The District Judge awarded the wife £1,750 so that she had a total income of £2,000 being 34% of the total income. On appeal Coleridge J increased this to 40%. He increased it to reflect the wife's contributions to the marriage over 30 years. He did not increase this to 50% in recognition of the fact that the parties were no longer in partnership and the husband was to be the person generating the income.



Difficulty is, I don't know anything about your circumstances. However, you should most definitely familiarise yourslf with the statutory criteria which a Court is required to take into account if you are considering self representation, and consider how they apply to your case.

You should not allow the hearing to be sidetracked into issues of conduct. They are almost certainty irrelevant.
Just mention the House of Lords decision in Miller v Miller - you can find this on the House of Lords website. A judge will know exactly what you mean.

The issues are, what are your wife's needs ? Are they reasonable and can she justify them by evidence ? What are your own needs ? First of all, can you afford accommodation ? Is it reasonable to expect your wife to work, even if only part time ?

This issue of needs is crucial. As a personal view, I have always believed that the law should make provision for some minimum level of protected income for the payer of maintenance, and the Court should not be permitted to make an order which would take the income of the payer below that level. But it does not, and you need to remember that ' the system ' assesses tax, and entitlement to benefits, on the assumption that you still had the cash. For example, in my case, my age would entitle me to higher personal tax allowances, but my gross income is too high. However if
what I have to pay in maintenance is deducted, I would be below the level, and would get the higher allowances. Not very fair but no good complaining about it, you get nowhere.

You don't say if you have children. This matters. Does this 60% that you talk about include child support ?

Charlie, I don't know. It is hard to suggest arguments when I know very little. If you are a high earner, even 40% would probably leave you with enough. But I do know that you must concentrate on your needs, and you must be in a position to justify those needs by receipts and proper evidence.

  • Sera
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07 Aug 07 #1792 by Sera
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Hi Charlie,

OK, I did it!!! (although it dates back to 1999)

I no longer could afford the legal fees, he earned loads, so had a 'team', of solicitors, lackeys and barristers. All quite intimidating.Seven of them on the left, just me on the right.

The first thing of experience, is that since you're representing yourself, the other side knows you're not as clued-up as them. (In the legal sense!) But you know your life and past ten years better than anyone! So YOU'RE the expert on that bit.

Find out when you enter the court, (there'll be a clerk on reception) what the 'conduct' rules are. In my case, I was shown to a waiting room, and ex in another room. I was then asked to talk to his lawyer, who came in and asked me to sign a form.

DON'T SIGN ANYTHING!!!!!

When I asked what it was, he replied 'Court Procedure'. I then asked to read it first, but he said that there wasn't time, it was just formalities etc. I then glimpsed the figure of £8,000 (written beside in small print: Full and Final settlement). I was almost stung!

Complete FOUL PLAY.

Do not allow her party to 'intimidate' you. (Check with the clerk if they even have the right to talk to you?)

Once in the courtroom, address the judge 'your honour', you will be directed to stand when asked. Dress smart (no jeans). Remain calm. I found that the judge looked favourably at me representing myself.

The judge opened my ex's case, by asking for reason for divorce. They lied, re behaviour etc, but by then I just wanted out of it. I was shaking my head, and at one point I was asked not to say anything: the judge said that I'd get my chance to talk. (Which I did).

Once the 'blame' bit is over, they're not that interested in dealing with anything other than facts, bank statements etc.

If your ex is the Petitioner, it is up to her legal team to provide to you a Court Bundle. The court bundle alarmed me! It was three big lever arch files, with 990 pages!!!

Each side, plus the judge uses the paperwork from within those bundles, and as I discovered, you cannot add paperwork that is not enclosed at the case.

Make sure you have your court bundle in good time. When I couldn't find a particular bank statement, the judge got impatient with me, I stated that I'd only got it biked to me the night before, and 990 pages was a lot to absorb overnight. He went mad, at my ex's team. It is extremely unethical to only supply paperwork the night before, and they'd not have got away with that if I had a legal team.

(Not sure how far in advance you'll need it?)Mine was larger due to complicated pensions etc.

This paperwork is sectioned, her side would've prepared it, and you can make your own mini index if it helps. (I just scrawled on the differnet sections: Pensions / Credit card statements / mortgage papers etc etc). It was easier for me to find bits that way.

You will then have to sit in a witness stand, under Oath. You will be cross-examined, by their team. Since you are representing yourself, YOU will have to cross-examine her.

So you need to be stating what it is you're trying to get across to the judge in your statement.

He doesn't know either of you, you're numbers to him. I can't remember what I said, but imagine nobody knew you and you had to get your point across. Don't go down the 'she said - he said' arguementative route. State what you're having to fight for.

My statement went into what I wanted: (I was fighting for my rights to take out the 50% of my home I had paid for).

Now here's the thing. I had a flat from before I met him, he had a flat also. We both put the flats on the market and found a house together. He sold his flat first, borrowed the other half, when I sold my flat, I asked my solicitor to just make cheque to him.

15 yrs later in divorce court, he said that he'd paid for the house, (this whilst I was on the witness stand). I had to leave the stand to find the one bank statement, (from the 990 pages) that showed the transaction from solicitor.

So KNOW WHAT'S NEEDED! Stay focused.

My case was four days.

  • Sera
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07 Aug 07 #1793 by Sera
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Not sure if you can apply to reclaim your costs?

I read somewhere you could charge at £9.50? per hour for your time spent preparing your work, and up to two-thirds what a legal representative would charge.

Can anyone verify that? (Was suggested on another divorce website)

The issue of costs changed, but when the order is made, if you 'win' (being a better offer than you'd previously had) then ask the judge at the end about costs.

I got £7,000 in costs (then 1999)

  • Louise11
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07 Aug 07 #1795 by Louise11
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Hi Charlie!

Seems Seras' FH was in a proper court room to ours!
Ours was no different to the FDR, just my hubby, his ex wife and her barrister all sat a table in front of the Judge!
Her barrister had given my husband 5 minutes before going into court, what I now know to be his skeleton argument. What a complete joke and lies. 3 pages and 20 odd paragraphs, last paragraph, on Rossi v Rossi, on case law as to why his client should receive 80% of my husbands final pension instead of 50% of my husbands pension based on the years they were together!
btw...as with Seras case, we got their bundle on the Monday morning, when we were in court on the Tuesday morning! We had the day before to go through it! HAHHAHAHHA we had a letter from them 4 days before asking what documents we wanted adding to the bundle (as they said the judge likes to work from one bundle)as she is the applicant her bundle should be filed at court (I think 14 days before and they should exchange with you) and the respondants 7 days before. My husband had filed his bundle 7 days before as per the order. Good Job as their bundle did not contain ONE DOCUMENT my husband had asked for!! Also good job he had filed his bundle in court 7 days before because the Judge read it 7 days before and wrote to her and her solcitors demanding to know why they had not included me as an intervenor. The property that his ex wife was claiming was her asset belonged to ME!!!! Their excuse was " our client didnt want to incure anymore costs than was necessary to reach an agreement with her ex husband, and her costs are spiralling!!!!!! (have you ever heard anything like it??? They charge her 30k and say she cant afford to include me??? LOL I know I am expensive but I wouldnt of charged her anything to be included!!
Anyway they go into the FH.
Her barrister armed with his skeleton argument, my husband with it all in his head!
Judge asks them again why the NEW WIFE has not been included? She makes it clear to everyone that I should be! She refuses permission to allow me in court a s a Mckensie friend as I should be an intervenor protecting my rights!
They then discuss certain stuff, i.e. his pension, Judge says the pension report they have submitted is no good and wants 6 more questions adding to it! One being what is the new wifes entitlement to it? Since the ex wife had got her Decree Absolute she was no longer entitled to the widows part of the pension and she had grounds to sue her previous solicitors for bad advice! Her barrister argued that she never had legal advice at the time of the divorce and that the pension should be shared from the day my husband retires, (which would be ten years after they divorced) and it should be shared between my husband and his ex wife and the "new wife" can have whats left over!!!!!! based on Rossi V rossi! (still dont get that case law arguement but hey ho)Judge would not accept this!
Anyway they all trooped out of court, her barrister rang the "pension expert" to ask these 6 questions! The actuary said ahe could do it for another £150!!! Already she had been paid £550 plus vat! So in they all trooped again, Judge adjourned it. My husband said " he didnt trust his ex wifes solicitors so could we get our own report, they have said it will cost extra £150, my husband said i bet when it actually happens it will be more! Judge looked at the Barrister and said "you say £150" will it be anymore? He replied well your Honour it could be! So she granted an order that if it is any more then he could get his own report done.
It was ordered to be in court 5 weeks ago! LOL, lo and behold its not and the new bill is £400 +vat!!!!!!! De dum de dum.
And on and on and on it goes!
So be prepared it could change to a directions hearing!
Whilst all this goes on another month goes by and my hubby has paid another 3 months pension. Since their divorce he has paid over 18k into it! 3 years of which have been with him! Makes me wonder if they drag things out so it keeps rising!
Anyway dont fret over it all, treat it as another hearing, just make sure you get that bundle in 7 days before with every document you want showing in court! Every piece of evidence you have. But also send her a list of all the documents that are going to be in your bundle, hopefully she will do the same but at least you will be covered. If there are documents that she has not already got then send her a copy, that way you cannot be critised at all for anything!

Kind ones
Louise

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07 Aug 07 #1796 by Sera
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Louise, I had to go to the Family Division of the High Court in London. We didn't live in Central London, but that's where his solicitor was based, so that's where they brought the case to. During the time I did have brief representation, my solicitor turned up puffing and panting to our meeting (she had been delayed on the tube) she put a travelcard on the table (then, around £5.00) but charged me not only for the fares, but another £300 for the hour spent travelling into London!

Since you mentioned the Pension value: My husband said it was worth £165k (yes, I know, enormouse pension, saved during my 16 yrs with him, five pension plans that I didn't even know existed!) I asked an independent company to vale his pensions. He had supply all the paperwork, and I had to pay the company £135 for this valuation.

It came back with a value at £225k (over his claim of 165k) The judge at the FH took the middle-ground of 200k

Charlie, if you wish to say further what you're trying to protect, or claim for, post again, and I think you might get some further useful answers from experience folks here.

:)Sera

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