What will a good lawyer cost to handle my separation?
There are a number of ways to answer this question as there are a number of types of lawyers dealing with family law problems. If your income level is low and you qualify for assistance by the Law Centres, you will have your case handled with the minimum contribution by yourself. This payment can often be “built in” if there is a contribution from the other side in a separation agreement or case.
The drawback with the Law Centres is that they seem to operate on a permanent backlog. In the past two years the cutbacks in the public service have meant that recruitment has not proceeded and the volume of cases has increased. There are delays in even obtaining an initial interview in relation to the issues involved in the separation.
The services of a private firm of solicitors experienced in family law can vary in relation to charging procedures. It must be remembered that law firms sell time and expertise. They must account for the time spent on any case and they must charge sufficient fees to cover all their own expenses and pay their staff salaries and overheads, levies taxes and at the same time pay themselves a salary. In calculating the file a time record is the fairest system.
Family law cases in court proceedings can be prolonged if there is a contest over property or what is in the best interest of the children. Even in conclusion of a case if either party have a pension as part of their employment an order called a pension adjustment order (PAO) must be submitted to the court. In turn it must be carefully drafted to ensure the pension companies would pay out on the court order when the time comes to claim a share of the pension by the spouse. A court may agree a 50/50% split of the main bread earners pension this must be reflected in an order capable of delivering that sum at some future date.Be careful on the dates that are inserted in the PAO as you are only entitled to the value of the pension from the date of your marriage to the date of your separation. In other words if the pension existed before the marriage and payments continued after the separation you are only entitled to benefit from the years of the marriage.
For that reason it is virtually impossible to agree a fixed figure for a separation case as it is hard to know how long it will take.
The provisions of the Legal Services Regulation Act will require detailed breakdown of what work is carried out and what the estimated cost for each is. Again the time record printed out and attached to a fee note which will show the work carried out. There are situations where if clients do not have sufficient funds that out of the settlement terms provisions are made to pay the legal costs. This is often put in as a term of agreeing to the separation.
What is also taken into consideration is the experience of the Solicitor.
There is no simple answer to this. Ideally from a client point of view fix some for what the client considers to be a fixed job is the best option. This does not regard how long this actually takes or if the case takes many turns which were unexpected at the start is the solicitor expected to absorb all the extra time. One can only ever make an estimate from past experience about completion of a case. Sometimes the estimate can be totally underpriced.
There is no simple answer to this and as an a lot of life situations different. In conclusion the best idea is to negotiate a basic fee but be prepared to pay extra for any unforeseen items which arise as you go through the process of separation or divorce.