Today I just fired my solicitors -- mainly because I could no longer afford them as I'm drowning in a downward whirlpool of debt, but also because I got fed up with them taking so long to sort out the final details of my financial settlement.
A brief history:
(1) Decree Absolute pronounced in May
(2) Agreement reached on access to our daughter at the same time (and has been working out very amicably thus far)
(3) Could not agree a financial settlement in Court in June at a First Directions Appointment, despite my solicitor and I and the judge pushing very hard to use the hearing as a Financial Dispute Resolution.
(4) The next week I approached my ex directly and agreed a settlement with her. We agreed a modest lump sum payment to me and child maintenance from me to her (I have a decent job but lots of debts and she has lots of money from a trust fund)
(5) 4 months and 2 postponed Court hearings later, and our solicitors were still arguing over the small print, at which point I'd finally had enough.
The final sticking point was over life insurance for my maintenance - her solicitors have asked for me to take out a Decreasing Term Life Insurance policy (not part of our original agreement) and I proposed to nominate sufficient proportion of my work Life Insurance to cover the same amount (in order to save ~£2000 in premiums). The solicitors seemed unable to come up with some suitable wording.
I'd be grateful if anyone could help with the following questions:
(a) Now that I have chosen to self-represent, can I still resolve this case directly with her solicitors and get them to draft the wording and prepare the necessary documents? Or is there some protocol by which solicitors will only deal with other solicitors?
(b) If her solicitors are deliberatly obstructive (as far as I can tell they seem to be royally milking her of her savings resulting in a lot of stress), is there anything I can do about it?
(c) If I end up going to Court, can I simply present the judge with all the agreed parts of the settlement and get him/her to instruct on the insurance piece?
(d) Was I really dumb to fire my solicitor when we were so close...!?
I'm self-repping, and you just deal directly with the sols yourself. In this case, I'd just suggest their drafting of the 'small print' to 'satisfy their clients'. Inform them that you are now a litigant in person (spelling?!) and ask that they address all future correspondence to you.
Just be polite, (they are not allowed to legally advise you!) Just add all their 'bumpfh' to top of your letters, client name, reference nos:
If there's anything you don't want used in evidence in Court, mark that letter with WITHOUT PREJUDICE. (Then, I don't think they can quote from it in court).
If however, they are milking the situation, then why not apply to Court for an award of costs? She might have money to burn, but you don't. You've already agreed on a resolution, so you can maybe imply that she's stalling!???
Ask the Court for direction. (My local court office is very, very helpful!) For what forms you may need.
If you're in London - there's free advice available from the Family Division of the high courts... (link again someone?) They might have a free phoneline also???
Thanks Sera... it's encouraging to hear from someone else who is self-repping.
The frustrating thing with my case is that we are both very keen to get it settled but it seems to have been our solicitors who have been holding everything up through a mixture of over-complicating things, procrastinating and general incompetence. All for £200+ per hour! And I just spent 2 weeks looking after my daughter whilst my ex was in hospital suffering from anxiety and stress!
Thing is, they're all sworn to the bar, and I'm only sworn to the 10 Mars bars I need every day to get me through the stress!
They obviously have to get the wording just right, they don't want to be sued themselves for ill-advice in later years. So in honesty, they are only doing their job!
However, it does seem like a lot of procrastination!
Thats twice today that I have agreed with Sera. Blimey!! I can only add that no solicitor in the world or a barister will know your case as well as you. That is the good side to self repping. The flip side is trying to get a word in edgeways. This is one of the things I found. Court is very combatative and if you are good at getting your point across (and Sera is) then you will be fine. I found that I was treated like a criminal and I didnt like it. But seeing as U have been to court a few times you have got an idea of whats what. I reckon you should give it a go and you will save a bunch of cash. The very very good news is that loads on here self rep and you can get advice for free. Good luck mate. Chris
As Chris says, you are the only one who knows your case best. The solicitors are probably trying to cover every eventuality they can think of.
To add to Sera's and Chris's comments, if your solicitors represented you at court they would have filed a notice saying that. They should send have sent you a form for you to sign that states that they are no longer representing you (I forget what it's called) and you'll need to serve on the court a form saying you are acting in person, otherwise the court will continue to talk only to your solicitors. Again, your solicitors should send you that.
I suggest you talk to your wife and suggest mediation. The mediation service can draw up your agreement and then perhaps have one solicitor to check it for glaring errors, and then it's off to court for a Consent Order.