In this series, we explore real-life examples that our lawyers have encountered where failing to seek solicitor advice has caused the clients all manner of problems. Along the way there are useful ‘takeaways’ to help you avoid making the same mistakes.
Gaby Hardwicke’s Family Law Services lawyers frequently find instances where failing to take early solicitor advice on divorce, separation or a matter involving children has caused the clients a heavy financial loss. When instructed to deal with a matter at a late stage, often the costs to resolve the problem have ‘snowballed’ and will be far higher than if the client had contacted us early on.
Similarly, we often encounter situations where the need for legal advice might not be obvious, but the client has benefited financially by contacting us as a precaution.
Below, Partner Giles Robinson (pictured) highlights some examples from his own case load.
Separation agreement lapse costs divorcee substantial sum
The client had separated from his wife eight years earlier and came to see Giles to arrange a divorce. After the separation, the former matrimonial home had been transferred to his sole name, and he had given his wife a significant lump sum equivalent to half the equity in the property. They agreed that this represented a full and final settlement of all claims against each other. However, they did not formally record this arrangement in a separation agreement.
When the client’s estranged wife discovered he wanted a divorce, she sought a bigger settlement. We resisted this application successfully on his behalf, but doing so was expensive, both for him and his estranged wife. If he had contacted a solicitor to arrange a settlement agreement at the time of the couple’s original, undocumented, agreement, the litigation could have been avoided and he would probably have saved substantial costs.
Solicitor facilitates extra funding for special guardians
The clients were a couple about to become special guardians for two children whose mother was no longer able to care for them. The couple, who were relatives of the children, appeared content with the support plan their local authority had arranged, which showed the monthly instalments they would receive.
Giles highlighted that further funds should be available from the local authority. The fact the couple would now have five children in their household meant they may have needed extra assistance for things such as purchasing a larger car so the family could all go out together.
Thanks to Giles’s advice the couple obtained extra funding from the local authority to help meet the increased needs of their larger household.
Solicitor help needed after DIY divorce attempt
The client had attempted to initiate divorce proceedings himself, but when he applied for a decree nisi he was told there was an error on the original petition, which needed to be rectified before the divorce could proceed. Sensibly, he then instructed Giles. Fortunately, Giles was able to get the divorce back on track without having to start again, which in slightly different circumstances may well have been the case.
DIY civil partnership dissolution application invalid
The client and her former partner had agreed to dissolve their civil partnership and attempted to deal with the paperwork themselves. They could not understand, however, why their application for a conditional order of dissolution kept being rejected by the court.
When Giles was instructed he quickly saw that the way in which the forms had been completed did not meet the requirements of the relevant act. It was necessary to apply to amend the dissolution petition, which resulted in further cost and delay. This could have been avoided if the client had instructed Giles at the outset.