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Lawyers’ fees in family cases

12th October 2015

For some time now, public funding has been unavailable in family cases.  Whatever view people may take on this, it presents a real problem for many when relationships breakdown.

Often, there is a fundamental financial inequality between the parties which reflects the way people have organised their lives during the course of the marriage.  Many people still arrange their lives such that one person goes out to work while the other sacrifices or modifies their career and stays at home to raise children.

While mediation is available and public funding will sometimes cover the cost of this, mediation is not a panacea and may not work for everyone.

So what to do if you feel you cannot pay for a solicitor to advise or to represent you at Court? Hand in hand with the abolition of legal funding, the government brought in provision for payment of legal fees from family assets.  This is a new way of funding cases taking a broader view of the assets available to parties.

Now, one party can apply to Court for funding to enable both historic and future legal costs to be met from the resources available to the parties.  This can overcome the situation where one party cannot pay their solicitor from assets in their name, leaving them other without the ability to get advice. This assumes that there are ‘family assets’ form which these costs can be paid, and so this will not be applicable in every case.

Of course there is more to it than this but in general terms the law now enables the party in a weaker economic position to redress the balance to some extent.

A court will not expect modest savings to be depleted nor a family home to be charged with borrowing unless it is likely that the property will be sold. This means if there is income or savings available which are not in your name, you can apply to the Court for an order that money is made available to you to assist you in obtaining legal advice and going to court if that proves necessary.

This can prove crucial in ensuring that a fair settlement is reached between parties who otherwise would be in very different positions in terms of accessing legal advice.



George Ide
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