Legal costs on divorce

Bob Hope was quoted as saying “America is a country where the Olympics and the divorce lawyers both have the same slogan – Go for the Gold”. Are family lawyers in Jersey really that expensive and, if they are, what can you (the unfortunate client) do about it?

The short answer is that divorce lawyers are not cheap, and nor should they be. They have, after all, studied and worked hard to achieve expertise in a difficult area of law. The more complicated your situation the more time and skill will go into helping you to achieve a fair outcome with the least possible pain. That said, you should not find yourself in a position where the lawyers end up with more of your money than you do. The fees we charge should be proportionate to your case and you should feel that they are fair.

Big bills are unpleasant, and unexpected or unmanageable bills are a problem. Legal fees should never come as a surprise. We are required to provide you with information about your costs and, where possible, a sensible estimate of the costs you are going to incur. This enables you to plan and to ensure that your costs are proportionate to the issues in your case. You may not want to spend a small fortune to win a moral victory. You will not want to spend so much on your lawyer that you cannot buy a home. Do not assume, by the way, that your spouse will foot the bill – in the majority of cases each party will have to meet their own costs.

There are things that can and should be done to reduce legal costs. Lawyers will often provide an initial consultation at a reduced fee. They may well be able to offer a fixed fee and/or a payment plan which will enable you to manage your legal costs. Some lawyers will defer fees until the sale or maturity of an asset. Whichever lawyer you instruct remember that you are the boss, and make the most of their time – all good family lawyers expect to provide emotional support as part of the job, but bear in mind that you are ultimately paying for that emotional support.

Every family situation is unique, and this area of legal work requires an impeccable level of service – because our clients are frequently going through the worst time of their lives. Your prospective lawyer may describe themselves as the “largest”, the “boutique”, the “leading” or even the “best”; lawyers rarely advertise themselves as the “pretty average” or the “most expensive”. The trick is to look around for the right individual or firm who will give you confidence and meet your needs – at a price that you can afford and are willing to pay. When you find that person, make sure they give you value.

Not all family lawyers are in it for the money; but you should make sure they spend your money wisely.

Advocate Claire Davies
May 2021