Seeking a little more help/advise from anyone. I received the Consent Order on the 30th July 2007. Until today, my solicitor has not apply for the Decree Absolute. She told me that it is not covered by the Legal aid certificate. Can I now sack her and apply the decree absolute myself? To cut the long story short, she wanted more money from me. But in her client account, she is holding almost £13K of my money.
My understanding is that you can dispense with the services of your solicitor at any time, and proceed alone or with a new solicitor.
Clearly there are moments when this is not wise, like the week leading up to a key hearing.
But in your case, with the finances sorted out through a Consent Order, then i see no reason at all why you cannot inform the solicitors that you no longer need them, and go ahead and complete the form for the absolute yourself.
Turning the nisi into absolute is pretty straightforward and risk free so I don't see that you have much at all to lose by doing this.
Thanks OO soul & DBNO for your replies. I am going to write to sol telling her I dont need her service anymore. However, she has in her clients account over £12K of my money. I have been on legal aids therefore legal services needs paying off. In my last e-mail to her, I told her that I would like to attend the hearing for the cost of bill when she asked me for another £14.5K. So I am in a bit of a dilemma here. What would you do if you are in my shoes.
Applying for D/A
It is a very simple job and you can download the form from the HCMS website
Normally attracts a fee of £40 -I am assume you are the Petitioner!
Can be applied for after 6 weeks and 1 day after Decree Nisi
If D/N more than 1 year ago another step is neede -if that is the case let me know. Basically you would have to apply for permission to get the D/A (readily granted) but supported by a sworn statement containing essential info for Court.
Now if you were on Legal Help and the divorce was fees exempt the Court fee would be free!
The Court may require you solr to sign the D/A if they are still on the Court record so either prepare it and get her to sign it or you will need to file a notice of charnge which is a simple form or letter to Court advising you are acting now for yourself in place of Miss X of Sue Grabbit & Run!
If the order is complex and includes a pension share don't sack the solr the process is too complex. If there is a policy to assign to you you would need to prpeare a deed of assignment -the life company will supply a precedent on request and if you got the house conveyancing to be attended to.
The Legal Aid people will likely register a charge for their fees and usually after the case the solr will after the final order give notice of the outcome and ask you to sign a charge from which is sent to CLS (Community Leegal Service) and they register it.
Work done on legal Aid is at an hourly rate 3-4 times lower than private client rates so in reality it may be a surprise to you that if work is done by a legal exec or solr it is now not believed realisticaaly there is any profit in the work unless it is piled high and work done by clerks with all the problems that may bring etc.
Don't confuse issues of challenging the bill if you are unhappy with the way the work was done. If you alege x or y wasn't neccessary that may be relevant when a DJ assesses (taxes the bill) -if other issues i.e.service issues such as delay or other complaints the solrs have now to have a complaints policy...follow that to the letter and set out the issues. The Complaints partner will or should address those issues etc -and if uphelp a reduction in fees may be appropriate but given the above points it is likely to be relatively modest.
The usual procedure is the bill is sent to you and you are invited within a short period to make you observations in writing to the Court. Each item on the Bill will be numbered and you write comments on the items individually.
Usually legal aid bills are prepared by independent persons known as Costs Draughtsman. The hourly rates will be standard and not challengable -you will either claim the time spent on Preparation & Perusals too much and /or attandances on you too much but if client's are demanding fees go up. If tho attandance ie t/p calls etc are to tell Solr to get finger out you shouldn't pay for that.
In a serious case either complain to the Solicitors Regulation Authority but onlay after you have gone through the complaint's process.
One word of warning -Bills are assessed by Court normally without a hearing. If dissatisfied one can apply to Court for a review -fee payable.
You say you want't to go to Court for the Assessment hearing-Yes you can ask for one but not a good move-the reason is the solr will have to attend and she will be entitled to charge travelling and her time for waiting and the hearing so realistically say if those costs are £150 + VAT + Crt fee and you are not looking for that reduction it may not be cost effective.
A tictic to emply if you do want to do that is to say after you detailed objections - Bearing in in my observations and complaints I am content to agree the bill at X subject to the Honourable Court's approval + VAT and the stated disbursements (things paid out eg Counsel's fees (which are fixed scale charges, valuers fees etc).
I make this open offer in advance of the assessment hearing in the hope your and valuable Judicial time will be spared. If you agree please confirm your agreement when forwarding the bill to the District Judge (DJ) in the hope the Court will assess the bill as amended.
If they say no and the assessement proceeds the DJ may well disallow their costs of attending waiting and travel of the assessment hearing.
If the bill is lodged for assessment after the usual time for assessment the DJ can disallow and often does the costs draughtsman's fees for preparing the bill.
Finally it seems you may be paying a monthly contribution to LS...if you ask the solr to confirm in 7 days she has applied for the Cert to be discharged IT the LSC process quickly the contributions stop- don't hold your breath they ofter take months to process -not Solrs fault. Actually it is only "cash flow" coz if the Statutory Charge applies and the Gross Bill of Solrs is say £4500 and you have paid £1000 in contributions if they send to LSC the £3500 asap when they ask for Cert to be discharged there is no reason why the surplus they are holding should not be sent to you. The inetest they will give is client a/c int which is rubbish 0.5-1.5% -If there is a meaningful delay of more than1 month tell them to put £ on a designated high interest a/c and ask them to conform asap.
Your bill won't surely be anything like 14.5K if you are on legal aid!!! If so it maust have been a bitch of a case!!
Ask for a realistic time scale for all work to be concluded if they have to do any in writing
Thanks Attilldahun for the reply. I am not aware that it is so complicated to discharge my case. Yes it was a hell of a case. The XTB contested on every issues and they were unreasonable after leaving me with debts of over £200K. The case is now over 5 years, I've paid most of the debts by selling the MH and now the sol is draging her feet. I'll e-mail her again to see if she had discharge the case.