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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
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Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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I have an ongoing divorce of 4 years because the finance and

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I have an ongoing divorce of 4 years because the finance and situation is complicated. My ex never worked. I did a full time job and built up a property portfolio. Initially these properties were in my sole name as I bought my first property only months before meeting my ex. He worked 7 of 20 years. He is a bully and a drunk. However we had a final dispute hearing and even my own barrister said I have no case for contributions as we together from the start. So we went to hearing with next to nothing sorted. Although he previously agreed valuations from estate agents he now wants Rics. His barrister instead of going into a room to talk offers simply wrote another list of directions. He won’t budge on keeping the family home with all the equity. Even the court said that house would be sold and if he had the house (which is over and above his share by a lot) he then wouldn’t have the funds to pay his solicitor fees and debt. Therefore the house would be sold and he’d have to choose another in the portfolio. The court said both our barristers were unprepared My biggest question is it legal and normal practice for his solicitor to be saying she doesn’t need cash payment and giving him time (any amount) to later get a job and remortgage for her fees? They say his fees are 18k already which is more than double what they should be. I can only guess that she is prepared to put a charge on his property for the fees. He won’t be able to get a job and remortgage enough to pay her possibly ever. So it’s counting on the fact that she get her money when he sells? Is it a conflict of interest? She filling his head saying he’ll get the house it feels like just to bump his costs up?
Assistant: What steps have you taken? Have you filed any papers in family court?
Customer: Yes I filed everything for last two years on rentals incomes etc but it seems MY solicitor only sent the last years. And also only late in the day. So his side are obsessed with what little income he may have got since separation and just creating teams of paperwork- bumping up their fees. It’s minimal income at best and just a waste of time. But is it legal for her to not take payment till he sells - in 10 years if that’s the earliest he can pay?
Assistant: Family Court normally sits in a local County and Magistrates' Court. Do you know the location of the court? If not, what county do you live in?
Customer: We went to Hasting Family Court. Sussex
Assistant: Anything else you want the Lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: I paid him £15,000 in the year following separation so he could live. Therefore I feel any income for last 3 years (less than 5k anyway) has been paid. His solicitor is saying I haven’t ALLOWED him to help with portfolio.. reality is he NEVER helped. Hasn’t a clue. He’s a bully and a danger to tenants (I learned that when I asked him once to help me move a wardrobe and he punched the tenant) So I cannot get him to help. Not possible. But they are using it against me. We are going in circles still 4 years on.

Good afternoon. I will assist with your question - be aware this is an email not chat service therefore maybe delayed in replying.

thank you for this information but i am unclear as to what you want from this?

can you summarise please

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
I would like to know if it is legal practice for a solicitor NOT to take ANY payment and be planning on putting a charge on the property in effect doubling her fees because of that. The court said he won’t get the family home because if he did he would have that but NO money and no job to pay solicitors and debts. His answer was that his debts are on arrangement of £1pm anyway and his solicitor doesn’t need payment for 10 years if needed. That means she intends to put a charge?!

Also following Final Dispute hearing its come to light my own solicitor failed to log with the court half of the paperwork (only this years not last years) which gave them grounds to ask more directions instead of looking at offers... Can I dismiss my solicitor and act for myself from now on? Because I have NO further money to pay them.
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Also we have lots of debt. Mostly in my name but solely caused because he didn’t work therefore if they say he’s entitled to 50/50 (despite his lack of contributions) then will the courts also accept that the debts are 50/50? We wouldn’t have the properties if it weren’t for me juggling debt. Surely he can’t have it both ways?

If he can’t pay his solicitors fees, tough. DIY. If his solicitors fees are 18,000 pounds already, get another solicitor or DIY. It is his own fault for not settling sooner and having stupid arguments such as the choice of estate agents. The average of three local estate agents or even a Zoopla valuation should be sufficient unless it’s a one-off property where any agent including a RICS agent would simply pull the figure out of midair. However if he wants that, I can see no reason not to agree to it providing you get an undertaking from his lawyer that he does not know the individual or the firm who are carrying out the valuation.

I would also suggest that he undertakes to be bound by the valuation because you don’t want him coming back later and arguing even further just because it doesn’t suit him and he wants to go back to the other valuation.

It is quite possible that the amount of money being argued over here is far less than the cost of the argument because it 250 pounds per hour per each solicitor, 500 pounds per hour, it can soon gobble up the disparity.


There is nothing to stop a solicitor saying “pay me in the future from the settlement”. Nothing unusual at all although the majority want paying upfront, not on credit!


It is not unknown for a solicitor to wind up their client, “you are entitled to this, and you are entitled to that and don’t settle for this and don’t settle for that and you want more more more” (and meanwhile pay me 250 pounds per hour for the argument) and end the matter to eventually settle for what was on offer in the first place but each of the parties of thousands of pounds in legal costs down the tubes which they will not recover. It’s a great source of annoyance for me that many solicitors are more concerned about their fees than actually doing the right job for their client.


Can I clarify anything else for you?


I am happy to answer any specific points arising from this.


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Thank you.


If you still need any points clarifying, I will still reply because the thread does not close.


Best wishes.



Customer: replied 3 months ago.
The point is that whilst I get that a solicitor could say ‘pay me out of the settlement’ they are trying to get an unemployed man (not employed last 10 years) a settlement that means he’d have a 3 bed house with NO money. Therefore they can’t even get paid out of the settlement... They MUST be planning on putting an extortionate charge on his property? Is THAT legal?

Also am I allowed to continue now without my solicitor as I don’t have any money left at this point?!

No one can be compelled to use a solicitor so, by all means DIY.


They are trying to do the best for their client. That isn’t actually relevant to whether they get their fees out of any settlement.


The settlement is not just based upon the amount of assets, it’s also based upon need.


If he has not worked for the last 10 years, then it reduces his claim although it does beg the question as to how he has paid any legal costs at all unless they are waiting on everything.


The way he is going, even if he got awarded a three bedroom house, it’s all going to go in legal costs.


Ultimately, he does not NEED a three-bedroom house.


To answer further, I would need a complete list of assets incomes liabilities et cetera.


The starting point for the division of marital finances is 50-50 and it is then adjusted up or down, one way or the other, in favour of one partner or the other depending on what the individuals put in at outset, the length of marriage and the time together before marriage, the needs of the individuals after the divorce, what savings, assets, pensions et cetera there are and also the ability of each person to work after the breakup.

The time which a couple are together before they get married will be taken into account because it would be grossly unfair if someone had been together for 30 years and then split up after being married for 12 months to have the finances treated in the same way as a couple who had got married not long after they met and were then divorcing after just 12 months.


It’s largely a mathematical thing but does look at needs after divorce.


Even if everything is being divided down the middle, it’s not really a case of dividing it down the middle, all the assets wouldn’t be split 50-50 but the bulk would be 50-50 and therefore one person may keep the house and the other for example could have the savings and the pensions.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
He hasn’t paid ANY legal fees and won’t apparently for 10 years (thats the time limit he’s been given) Which to me seems ludicrous and underhand in some way. Thank you, I’ll get more details for you on assets etc..

Forgive me for saying it, but I don’t believe that. I cannot believe a solicitor would wait 10 years to be paid.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Exactly! How else would she get paid when she is trying desperately to win him a 3 bed house which means he’d get NO cash settlement. He could have a 2 bed and some cash but they are adamant he must have the family home. He has been unemployed a minimum of 9 years. Her answer (barrister) in court was he doesn’t need to pay his debts as he will service the arrangement on them and don’t worry about him paying his solicitor bill - he will get a job after divorce and remortgage to pay her. He won’t get a job easy, has never earned over £25k and there’s £185k mortgage on the home. So he would need a £50k job!!!!?? ONLY explanation is she will put a charge on the property or he has agreed to sell it after he wins it?!
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
I have been working with my solicitor for 2.5 years and my bill is £16,000 and he has only been responding this year so 10 months yet his bill declared to court is £18k?! Something dodgy is going on in my opinion and I wonder if I should make a complaint to SRA as it’s hindering my case that she is not looking at any other offers (him choosing another property from our BTL portfolio) instead of going for the house. The court said the Family home would be sold and he should choose another. It’s like she just filling his head to bump up fees.

He could indeed have agreed to sell the property after he wins in which case, it’s going to be a bit of an empty victory if he has to sell the house purely to pay his legal bill.


The technique of filling his head up just to get her fees bumped up is not at all unusual. Many solicitors are more concerned about fees than doing the job. That’s why I am answering questions on Just Answer because it’s a much fairer process.

Can I answer any specific questions about this for you now?

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