The recent case of J v J  EWHC 3654 received media coverage as a result of the eye watering legal costs which ran to £920,000. The legal fees were by no means the largest ever known in a multi-million pound case however in this particular case they made up a shocking 31.9% of the total assets of the marriage. Consequently, Mr Justice Mostyn called for urgent reform of the scale of litigation costs in financial remedy cases (formerly ancillary relief).
In the case of J v J the parties had built up over £2.8 million during an 18 year period. By the FDR hearing the parties had incurred costs of £226,000. However the real sting in the tail was the costs incurred between the failed FDR and the final hearing which totalled a staggering £700,000 including £154,000 of forensic accountancy costs.
Mostyn J criticised the law-makers for having done nothing to prevent the soaring costs of financial remedy cases, stating “Stop saying something must be done and actually do something”.
Mostyn J suggested that the first reform that was necessary was to insist upon fixed pricing for financial remedy cases. He went on to say that parties must be able to seek a fixed fee price for all 3 stages of the financial remedy proceedings:- 1. Form A to First Appointment 2. First Appointment to FDR 3. FDR to final hearing
The second measure proposed by Mostyn J was that there should be a cap on the amount that a solicitor can charge at each of the 3 stages of the proceedings, unless in exceptional circumstances.
In my opinion, I can absolutely see the benefit for individuals that fixed fee pricing would achieve. It would primarily enable litigants to budget and manage the costs of the proceedings. It also manages their realistic expectations as to the expense of litigation. It may also encourage individuals to give more serious consideration alternative methods of resolving their dispute including; mediation, arbitration and collaborative law, which are less costly, if the cost of Court proceedings is made crystal clear from the outset.
As a solicitor I do however appreciate the difficulties that practitioners could encounter by offering a fixed fee package as Court proceedings come with a host of uncertainties, which could render the original fixed fee wholly unrealistic. This is often beyond the control of the solicitor, for example, if the other party fails to comply with directions of the Court. Therefore any fixed fee offerings do need to be clear as to what work is covered and in what circumstances any additional charges will be incurred.
Here at Consilia Legal, we believe it is important to be transparent with our clients in relation to costs and that’s why we offer fixed fee packages for many aspects of our work including:-
1. Initial meeting/advice letter
2. Divorce/Dissolution proceedings
3. Clean Break Order/ Deed of Separation
4. Financial Remedy proceedings (stages1, 2 & 3)
5. Pre-nuptial agreements/cohabitation contracts
You can contact us to discuss your case on 0113 357 1315 or firstname.lastname@example.org