Beware the costs

Another case which has hit the headlines is an extraordinary matter where the legal fees incurred for both sides amount to around £2.3 million against the couple's assets of £1.75 million.

It is relatively unusual for a judge to make any especially controversial comment in a judgement on a matter but in this case, the judge expressed 'dismay' and pointed out that the costs are 'utterly disproportionate'.

Unfortunately, in this case, the parties who are likely to suffer most will be the children of this warring couple. The judge pointed out that his focus would have to be on the division of the debts given the depletion of the assets due to the cost of the litigation. The judge observed that the parties argued in the case about 'almost every imaginable issue, no matter how trivial'.

The judge saved some scathing criticism for the lawyers involved in what he described as 'nihilistic litigation'. In the interests of balance, it is fair to say that it is the job of a lawyer to explain the law to their client; advise. Then to seek their client's instructions on the basis of that advice. It is not the job of the lawyer to impose their own views on the client's circumstances. If a client instructs the lawyer to continue to argue in a litigation matter, generally the lawyer must carry out their client's instructions.

Whilst this case is hopefully rare, it is a salient reminder to any couple who are parting ways that it can be better for all involved, in particular any children, to try to step back from the acrimony of a relationship breakdown and look at the bigger picture. In the case in hand, virtually all the assets have been eaten up with legal fees.

Many lawyers carrying out divorce and family work will advocate the importance of mediation and trying to avoid personal acrimony when helping clients reach an agreement on how matrimonial assets are to be divided.

To discuss this or any other family related matter, contact us.