Separating couple spends third of assets on divorce fees

A high court judge has called for legal reforms following a divorce which has cost the couple almost a third of their assets.

The divorcing couple’s cost of hiring lawyers and experts reached £920,000, almost 32% of their £2.9m contested assets. He described it as a ‘grotesque leeching’ of costs, and blamed ‘wasteful and inefficient practices’ [1].

Initial high costs were due to expensive reports intended to value the husband’s business interests. Investigations were commissioned by both parties, comprising of six reports and a joint statement, costing £154,000.

Mr Justice Mostyn has suggested as a solution that fixed fees for each stage of litigation be imposed, as well as a cap on fees that can be charged by a lawyer. He stated that: ‘In my opinion, only if these two steps are taken will the grotesque leeching of costs, such as has occurred in this case, be arrested.’

Elizabeth Gallagher, head of the Family Law department at Macks Solicitors, says that: “High profile cases such as these can reinforce a “fat cat” image of lawyers, and highlight the damaging effect of litigation. I would like to see the judiciary emphasising to the public the benefits of alternatives to court.

In my experience clients are now very conscious about costs. At Macks we discuss costs with a client at the beginning of their case, and provide them with an estimate based upon various potential outcomes.

We also invoice on a monthly basis – clients view this in a similar way to their credit card bill. It means that clients are being kept informed as costs are incurred, and it gives the lawyer an opportunity to look at and review the costs estimate regularly. We look at all options for keeping costs at a reasonable level, such as assisting clients in undertaking themselves some of the work associated with their case.

Next week Resolution (a national organisation of family lawyers) is organising Dispute Resolution Week to highlight the benefits of keeping disputes out of court [2]. Macks are providing 30 minutes without charge to discuss alternatives to court for clients who book appointments during that week.”

[1] The Law Society Gazette
[2] Resolution

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