How to manage the costs of your family law matter
Five ways to keep legal costs down
If your family law dispute must be taken to court, your solicitor might advise that the pathway of litigation is unclear. Ultimately, the matter will be resolved at the discretion of the court and this is true for many types of matters, including divorce application, financial remedy applications and child arrangement orders. This means that the legal fees you will need to pay may not be known at the outset.
Whilst your solicitor will provide best estimates of costs based on previous experience, these estimates are usually on the basis that matters proceed smoothly and there are no additional complications. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and there may, for example, be additional court hearings or documentation to prepare in order to best protect your position and progress matters on your behalf.
Understandably, the uncertainty of the costs involved can often lead to additional strain in an already financially and emotionally difficult situation. Within financial remedy proceedings, uncertainty can reduce the assets available for distribution and may mean that these funds are no longer sufficient to meet the needs of all parties involved. Meanwhile, in children proceedings it can eat into funds that could otherwise be used for the benefit of the children concerned.
There are ways to reduce the costs of litigation and your family law matter more generally. Here are our top tips:
1. Consider mediation, collaborative law and arbitration as ways to avoid going to court
Court litigation can be an expensive process and legal aid is only available in a small number of limited circumstances. However, court is not the only option for dispute resolution. There are available alternatives and these systems are designed to assist and support you with reaching agreements.
Mediators are specialist trained third parties who can assist by helping the parties to talk things through and discuss and agree on the best arrangements for the future. Mediation can present a cost-effective solution because it enables the parties to retain some control.
In the collaborative law process, both parties and their legal representatives agree to find a solution which best supports the family unit as a whole, including any children, rather than focusing solely on the solution which would best suit an individual. Discussions take place within “four-way meetings” with both parties and their legal representatives present, and this can reduce the costs of protracted back and forth correspondence and negotiations between legal representatives.
Arbitration provides an alternative process to court proceedings for circumstances where you and the other party have attempted to resolve matters and cannot agree the way forward between yourselves. Within arbitration, you and the other party agree to put forward your proposals to a trained third party who will then make a decision based on the applicable law, and you will be bound by the decision of the arbitrator. Arbitration has the advantage of reaching a conclusion faster than through the court system, and you and the other party have more control over the procedure used and therefore the associated costs.
2. Attend to matters promptly
You are likely to frequently be asked for your thoughts and instructions in respect of correspondence or documentation drafted on your behalf, as well as the proposed course of action in your matter more generally. By responding promptly, it is more likely that the matter will be fresh in yours and your solicitor’s mind. This can assist in reducing the time taken to review and take the appropriate next steps.
3. Read correspondence and documentation carefully
To reduce the volume of correspondence and to make things easier for you, your solicitor will often prepare detailed emails and letters of advice addressing the key matters and questions which may arise. By taking the time to carefully read this correspondence, you can check whether any questions or concerns have already been addressed before responding.
4. Write down any questions you have before telephone calls and appointments
The CW Family team is of course more than happy to discuss your matter together with you by telephone or appointment. We are also mindful of your costs and seek to ensure that the contents of our conversations with you are focused and that any advice given is succinct where possible. With this in mind, we suggest that before speaking with your solicitor, you ensure that you have written down, or emailed in advance, the key matters that you wish to discuss. This helps us make sure you are getting the most value out of the conversation.
5. Keep correspondence minimal and focussed
Solicitors charge on a time spent basis and are therefore charges associated with each telephone call and for reading and responding to any letters and emails. By consolidating all thoughts and questions and sending a single email at the end of the day, this can assist in keeping your costs down. Please note that we will also be in touch with you when we have any updating information to provide.
Contact a specialist family law solicitor
If you require legal support to resolve your family law dispute or any other family matter, call now on 0800 422 0123 or contact us online for a confidential initial consultation. We have family law solicitors ready to help in London, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham, Southampton and Taunton.
Authors: Sarah Wood-Heath; Annabel Winsor