Don’t let legal costs lead to financial suicide

In June I blogged about the case of B v B [2013] EWCH 1232 (Fam) in which judgment Mr Justice Coleridge urged divorcing couples to take a more pragmatic approach to resolving their financial disputes, not least to avoid escalating and disproportionate legal costs.  In guiding clients towards a fair solution, experienced family law solicitors providing divorce advice will often recommend a pragmatic approach, not only to achieve the best results more quickly, but also to limit the cost of doing so.  The message, endorsed by Coleridge J, is essentially: don’t sweat the small stuff.  If the major issues have been resolved, don’t let the minor irritations stop you from settling.

The issue of legal costs in family proceedings continues to be a hot topic.  This week the case of Sekhi v Ray [2013] EWCH 2290 (Fam) has caught my eye for similar reasons.  In his judgment on the preliminary issue of whether the court in England & Wales has jurisdiction to hear the divorce, Mr Justice Holman criticised Dr Sekhi and Mr Ray for spending almost a quarter of their £4m net wealth on legal fees.  Despite being highly educated and well-respected professionals, Dr Sekhi and Mr Ray appear to have been consumed by a sort of litigation fever fueled by the breakdown in their personal relationship, which has had devastating financial and emotional consequences.

Whilst a significant proportion of the overall legal costs went on proceedings concerning their son and not their divorce or related financial settlement, nonetheless it is plain that our Family Division is increasingly concerned about the money people are prepared to spend on arguing over divorce settlements.  In this case, Holman J referred to the parties’ escalating legal costs as tantamount to ‘financial suicide’.

Of course, there are occasions when it is absolutely right to fight for what you are entitled to, especially when your former partner is being unreasonable or simply uncooperative.  A reputable family law solicitor will be able to advise you on when it is right to pursue your claims.  It is essential however to bear in mind that what you stand to gain by any legal action must be entirely proportionate to the costs spent.  All too often clients lose sight of what they originally set out to achieve; it is difficult to make dispassionate decisions at what can be a very emotional time.

As expert family lawyers our aim is to guide you through this process with the benefit of objectivity.  This does not mean we lack compassion, however by focusing on the end result we can often prevent the nightmare of spiraling legal costs, which are so often  the result of emotionally-led applications.

For a free initial consultation please contact us at family@slaterheelis.co.uk or on 0845 873 6500.

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