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Divorce law blog

Funding legal fees on divorce

10/05/2013   By: Anna Heenan

The recent cuts to legal aid have received a great deal of press coverage. Something that hasn’t received quite the same attention is the other options for funding legal fees on divorce. Funding is something you really need to think about early on and it is sensible to raise this with your solicitor at a first meeting.

The best way of keeping your costs down is to avoid the court process and explore the alternatives, such as collaborative law and mediation. However, sometimes court action is necessary. So, how can you fund court proceedings if you don’t have the income or savings to do so?

Legal aid

Legal aid will continue to be available, but only in very limited circumstances. On divorce, legal aid will only be available if it can be proved that there has been domestic violence or there is a risk of domestic violence.

“Orders in respect of legal services” (Legal fees orders)

These are new orders that were introduced at the start of April. It seems clear that these orders will be very much a last resort and will only be made if someone cannot “reasonably” secure legal representation without an order. The court is likely to expect someone applying for one of these orders to have investigated all other options, and to be able to prove that they have done so. It is also worth remembering that an application to the court is not cheap.

Talk to your partner

This will not work in every case, but if you have family assets that could be sold or used to pay legal fees then it is worth seeing whether your partner will agree to this. If your partner won’t agree, then this might help you in applying for a legal fees order.

Speak to friends and family

In many cases, friends and family simply won’t be able to help out with legal fees. However, if you are going to apply to the court for a legal fees order, the court will expect you to have explored options like loans from friends and family.

If friends or family are prepared to loan you the money, get something in writing setting out the terms of the loan (interest rates, terms of repayment etc) to try and avoid your partner arguing that the money is a gift.

Look at bank loans

Again, the court will expect you to have explored this option before applying for a legal fees order. Make sure you keep evidence of the responses of different banks and the terms that they offer you.

Talk to your solicitor

Solicitors can’t give you financial advice but they can:

  • tell you whether they offer any alternative charging structures (it is still common for solicitors to charge an hourly rate for all the time spent on your case, but increasingly there are other options available such as fixed fees, capped rates or even your solicitor advising you in the background as you represent yourself)
  • suggest funding options for you to investigate and take advice about
  • advise you about ways to keep your costs down

Anna Heenan
Solicitor (Family Lawyer)

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