Woman claims lawyers didn’t tell her divorce proceedings would end her marriage

Conference tableA woman unsuccessfully sued two law firms, claiming they had not advised her that divorce proceedings would inevitably result in the end of her marriage.

The claim, reported by the Independent, was one of several made by the woman against the firms. As a devout Roman Catholic the woman reportedly wished to avoid full divorce, and believed her lawyers should have recommended judicial separation as an alternative.

In a recent appeal court judgement, Lord Justice Briggs explained:

“The most striking of [her] many allegations of negligence against her solicitors was that, having regard to her Roman Catholic faith, [her solicitor] had failed to give her the advice which was requisite in view of her firmly held belief in the sanctity of marriage…either in terms of the alternative of judicial separation, or about the impossibility of pursuing divorce proceedings to a clean break settlement, without thereby inevitably bringing about the final termination of her marriage, which she wished to avoid.”

Her various claims were all dismissed, the paper reports. Why did the client turn on her solicitors as she did and pursue them to these lengths? This is the bleak downside of being a family lawyer. Not every client is pleasant, not every client reasonable to deal with. It is yet another example of how deeply distressed a divorcing client can be – here a woman with conflicting religious and legal needs. I can’t pretend that I can hit it off with every client. Sometimes what they ask is beyond what any lawyer can deliver. Here she apparently gave conflicting instructions. A more common form of conflicting instructions is a request to “find every penny” coupled with “settle it on my terms” and “keep the costs to a minimum.” Of course the client is terrified, distressed, deeply unhappy. But the client needs to keep real, commercial, calm, as objective as possible. Otherwise the solicitor-client relationship, which needs to be operated as a mutually beneficial partnership, will simply fracture.

It is another reason why counselling in some form, rather than an immediate requirement to mediate, is in my view so very necessary.

Photo by Incase via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

Marilyn Stowe

The senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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4 comments

Andrew - January 12, 2014 at 8:46am

The defendants to this case – and I see she sued counsel too and got a settlement – had at least the benefit of insurance. I don’t know, of course, but given that the divorce settlement was as long ago as 2003 I would not be surprised if she had first tried to get the divorce settlement re-opened against her luckless ex-husband who would not be insured and probably incurred irrecoverable costs.

Which is why, as I have said on another thread, every private-sector applicant for leave to appeal without legal aid should be required to have insurance against any order to pay the respondent’s costs, assessed if not agreed, before serving the application for leave. No ifs, no buts, no exceptions.

And if the applicant is legally aided and the appeal fails the LAA (or EHRC) should be ordered to pay the respondent’s costs, regardless of the respondent’s means; again, no ifs, no buts, no exceptions.

Andrew - January 12, 2014 at 9:02am

Read all about it:

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/sino_search_1.cgi?method=all&query=mulcahy+boots&datelow=&datehigh=&sort=rank&highlight=1

Assuming the ex-husband was competently advised (and not also a devout Catholic opposed to divorce) he would not have reached a consent order based on a judicial separation which would lead him tied to her.

Nor would he have agreed to a nominal maintenance order without very different terms as to capital – a nominal order changes the shape of the order and again leaves the payer with lifelong baggage.

And she was the petitioner and must have agreed the petition with the word “divorce” in large letters at the top before it was issued.

See my previous comment: I rest my case.

Luke - January 12, 2014 at 3:34pm

I hope nobody sold a bear to this woman – because if she didn’t have any woods nearby she would probably sue them – not understanding when she bought it that at some point it would have to take a s__t :-)

Deepti Verma - January 13, 2014 at 12:37pm

Any loose point and wrong decision may ends up to a relationship end so it is required to take each and every step very carefully before making big decisions about life

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