I had a client attend our divorce clinic recently wishing to discuss mediation to agree the finances or her divorce. Nothing unusual there. However the client already had a court order in place for the finances and was already divorced.
The client was living in the former family home which had been ordered for sale within one year of the decree being made absolute and she realised that on the sale of the property, once she had paid of the costs of selling, the % split to her ex husband and the debts she had accrued during the last two years, she did not have enough to buy the type of property that she wanted. Indeed, she could just about afford a studio apartment some 10 miles away from where she was currently based.
She wanted to renegotiate the court order, or at least extend the period before the sale was due, in order to sort her finances out. Unsurprisingly, with a court order in place, the ex husband was not willing to negotiate again.
It transpired that at the start of the process this client had sacked her original solicitor as she did not think he stood up for her enough and then sacked her second solicitor, when the legal costs of the court hearing started to escalate. She represented herself at the second and the final hearing.
The client had wanted 70% of the former marital home in order to meet her needs. The husband wanted an equal split of the asset. The court ordered the equal split and that the home be marketed for sale within 12 months. The husband was represented throughout by a solicitor and also a barrister at the final hearing.
The client who came to see me had no idea about putting her case forward, explaining her future financial needs or what the law is regarding their case. Like many people believe, she thought she could rely on the judge to protect her in court and order what she was asking for. The judge is of course there to make an order, but also to be fair to both sides and listen to both legal arguments. In this case only one side produced a legal argument of any substance – the side with legal representation.
We never recommend any client go to court without a legal representative. If you had a leak in your house, you would call a plumber. Trouble with the electrics? Call an electrician. Been the victim of a burglary? You call the police. So why try to argue over, in this case, £325,000 of equity in a house, without professional assistance?
The difference between the 70% the client wanted and the 50% she received was £65,000. It has cost her this much and her home by representing herself. There are of course no guarantees when you go to court, but having a representative to put your case across at least ensures your interests are heard by the court.
In this case the children had grown up and were self sufficient, the only asset was the former marital home and there was no domestic abuse (although by the end of the divorce process, neither party could bear to be in the same room together). This is surely a case where they could have saved themselves a huge amount of time, money and stress, by using either mediation or our barrister review package?
The only advice I could give the client was to take urgent legal advice to see if the original order could be delayed or overturned. I don’t think she would have done so as she was already complaining that she could not afford any more legal fees…..
Divorce Friend can work with both parties to ensure a fair and amicable agreement on the parenting or financial issues of your divorce or separation. Contact us today on 0330 999 0313 for further information.