The prince, the pauper and proportionality- a cautionary tale about legal costs on divorce
Earlier this month it was reported that a couple had spent nearly £600,000 between them in legal costs arguing over the financial settlement in their divorce and that they were each left with just £5000 each at the end of it.
Inevitably, there will be more to the story that this and each party will have had their own motivations.
Sometimes, one party is compelled to incur significant fees as the other is being dishonest and/ or unreasonable. Sometimes there are difficult factual issues or issues about the values of assets or interests of third parties which stand in the way of proper negotiation and lead to additional costs.
In this case though the judge was heavily critical of the approach taken by the parties themselves saying “There may be worse examples of disproportionate and ill-judged litigation – but none spring readily to mind”.
The proceedings reportedly included 13 court hearings, a 5 day final hearing which did not proceed and 4 (unsuccessful) attempts by the husband to mount appeals. It is easy, therefore, to see how costs would have accrued.
The ongoing litigation has also sadly meant that the father’s relationship with the children has suffered and there remains ongoing court litigation in respect of them.
How do I stop this happening to me if I am divorcing/ separating?
Inevitably emotions are high when parties divorce or separate whereas trust is often in short supply. It is important in these circumstances to try and keep focussed on the “big picture”. There may be issues or dishonestys which frustrate and annoy you but if they are unlikely to make a difference to the outcome of your case then you have to carefully consider how far you want to pursue these.
An experienced family law solicitor can be an important tool as they can help advise you on which issues are likely to be worth spending time and money on and which are not.
At Maguire Family Law we fully recognise the importance of proportionality. We offer a road mapping service on initial consultation with no obligation to proceed afterwards. We seek to keep you updated on your costs and the potential future costs of your various options together with providing advice about the likely risk and reward of those options. This helps you make a full and considered decision. We can also advise on options to resolve matters outside of litigation including solicitor led negotiation, mediation or arbitration.