"I’m using a solicitor but my ex is acting in person – how will this affect me?"
Sophie Key looks at the role of the family law solicitor dealing with unrepresented parties.
The 2012 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) abolished legal aid for all private family law cases (divorce, finances upon divorce and children matters where the local authority is not involved). There are exceptions e.g. where there is evidence of domestic violence or exceptional case funding although these are difficult to establish. As a result, the number of people representing themselves in family law cases has soared. In the financial year 2012/2013 prior to the introduction of LASPO 58% of parties in private law family cases were recorded as having legal representation. In 2017/2018 this had reduced to 36% of parties.
But whilst people do have the freedom to choose whether they are represented, what does this mean for a represented party who has instructed their own solicitor and for whom they must pay their fees?
Your solicitor has a duty to communicate with your former spouse/partner just as they would with a solicitor instructed by your ex-partner. The communication should be professional and should avoid jargon as well as inflammatory language. Most family solicitors are members of Resolution (an organisation of family lawyers committed to non-confrontational divorce, separation and other family problems) which offers clear guidance as to how to deal with litigants in person.
Your solicitor, whilst acting for you, has a duty to be courteous and respectful to your former partner and to respond to their communication as appropriate. If your former partner (who will not be incurring their own legal costs) sends multiple letters or emails or makes regular telephone calls to your solicitor then your solicitor should explain to them that they will not be responding to each and every communication and provide reasonable timescales for responding.
As the represented party, it will fall to your solicitor to prepare the bundles in Court proceedings because the Court will expect your solicitor to take the lead. This will result in additional costs on your behalf but these are likely to be minimal compared to the additional costs incurred if the bundles are left to the litigant in person to prepare. It can sometimes seem that your solicitor is being overly helpful by assisting your ex-partner but in doing so this may avoid delays and reduce your costs.
At Howes Percival we are experienced at dealing with litigants in person, in explaining at the outset how we will deal with communication and ensuring any time we spend dealing with litigants in person is in the best interests of our clients.
If you would like to discuss this, or any other family law matter, please contact the Family Team. Alternatively you can find out about the service we offer by going to the Family Law page.
The information on this site about legal matters is provided as a general guide only. Although we try to ensure that all of the information on this site is accurate and up to date, this cannot be guaranteed. The information on this site should not be relied upon or construed as constituting legal advice and Howes Percival LLP disclaims liability in relation to its use. You should seek appropriate legal advice before taking or refraining from taking any action.