Mr Justice Mostyn has described as “madness” a recent High Court divorce case where a couple spent almost one third of their assets on legal and expert fees. The battle over £2.9m in assets cost the couple just under £1m. From the pre-costs starting point of £2,885,000, the wife will receive 38.9% of the assets, the husband will receive 29.2% and lawyers and experts will be paid 31.9%.
What Led to Such an Extreme Outcome?
A decision of a deputy district judge in November to allow each party to appoint their own experts caused costs to spiral out of control. By the time the case had come to financial dispute resolution in April, £266,000 had already been spent, making it “almost impossible” to settle.
The final total included charges of £154,000 for six forensic accountancy reports on the value of the husband’s business interests. During the seven-day High Court hearing presided over by Judge Mostyn, the main focus had become a “bitter war of recrimination and denunciation about who was more at fault”.
Of the eighteen pages of one party’s final submissions, nine were devoted to costs alone.
The Judge’s Recommendations
The Judge in the case suggested that a cap on costs and fixed fees for each state of litigation be imposed in such cases. He stated that these two steps are the only way to stop “the grotesque leaching of costs” and called on legislators and judges to implement these rules as a matter of urgency. “The figures speak for themselves...such a result should not be allowed to happen again”, he added. Mostyn intends on bringing the judgment to the attention of the president of the Family Division as soon as possible so that the issue can be raised with the Family Procedure Rules Committee.
Taking a More Positive Approach to Divorce
This case illustrates the inadequacy of the adversarial system when dealing with sensitive family law matters and highlights the benefit of alternative forms of dispute resolution, such as those offered by Resolution.
Resolution offers a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters. Resolution’s 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals encourage sensitive, cost-effective solutions that consider the needs of the whole family and encourage settling disputes by negotiation wherever possible. Other professionals in the family justice system, such as barristers, counsellors and therapists and people who work with children, are affiliated to and work closely with Resolution.
Court action is seen as a last resort and the specialist skills of Resolution’s collaborative lawyers help couples and families to complete the separation process as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Changes to the law are unlikely to come about soon so opting for a collaborative approach is a far better solution at the current time. A trusted Resolution lawyer can offer invaluable guidance when dealing with the complex issues surrounding divorce and separation, such as care of children, the home and finances. Many offer free or fixed-fee initial meetings to decide on the best approach to be taken.
Mediation and other collaborative approaches are often suggested as alternative methods of dealing with the challenges of the separation process and can greatly reduce both time and costs expended by all parties.
For specialist advice from a Resolution accredited specialist or a collaborative specialist contact Jeetesh Patel via e- mail JPatel@rollingsons.co.uk or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.