Shopping Around

I have known various clients who consulted a number of solicitors prior to deciding which was the right “fit” for them. I would hope this is standard practice however I doubt that in reality many people do and instead instruct the first lawyer they see. What if though you consult and instruct a
solicitor with whom your other half has already consulted? Will the solicitor still be able to act for you or will he/she be forced to refuse your instruction? If the answer is no, clearly a strategic interview with all of your local solicitors would mean your other half cannot instruct anyone close to
home – a brazen tactic indeed.

In a recent case the High Court considered this issue and determined that eleven different issues arose, the most significant of which are

  1. Imparting information in contemplation of a relationship will suffice to create a duty upon the solicitor to protect the information imparted.
  2. The solicitor must decide whether he can act bearing in mind his professional duties however the court retains the power to prevent him from acting.
  3. There is no absolute rule that a solicitor cannot act in a matter against a former client
  4. The information imparted by one client must be relevant to the other client for a conflict to arise though if the solicitor can show there is no real risk of disclosure of that information the court will not prevent him acting.

In this particular case (ZS v FS [2017] EWHC 2660) a short meeting in which nothing confidential was imparted to the solicitor and only general discussions took place, the court found that no confidential information had been imparted in the first place and so the court did not even go on to consider whether there was a real risk of disclosure. As such the Court did not rule out a solicitor for acting for the other half on a divorce matter following this initial consultation. The case was also marred by what appeared to the court to include strategy and manoeuvring on the part of the husband who was trying to ensure his wife could not instruct particular solicitors.

The High Court has therefore effectively made clear that merely interviewing and consulting with various solicitors with a view to excluding them from representing the other side will no longer be treated as an absolute bar to the solicitor then acting against you. I think the point of the judgement is that genuine disclosure to obtain advice with a view to instructing a solicitor would effectively rule him/her out of acting for your other half. Merely interviewing extensively on a strategic basis however will not.

Covering all areas of family law

The vast majority of firms of solicitors both on the Isle of Wight and further afield provide legal services in many different areas by way of a general law practice. There are only a handful of firms who provide a specialist family law service.

Michael Spoors Solicitors provides clients with the option of instead instructing a specialist who deals only with family law matters. Specialisation allows our solicitors to provide a bespoke service of the highest quality to our clients as we have specific knowledge and experience in this branch of law. We are able to offer clients clear advice that is tailored to their particular situation and our experience of both court and non-court dispute resolution allows us to plan a strategy to deal with the matter from our initial instruction through to resolution. Dealing with cases in this way achieves the best possible outcomes for our clients.

We offer advice on all areas of family law including divorce, dissolution and associated financial matters, private children law and disputes between unmarried partners. We can also provide advice in respect in respect of pre and postnuptial agreements, including drafting a document to protect against disputes arising in the event of a marriage breaking down. We understand that costs are a significant concern for many clients and we will always discuss how to meet costs at the outset.

Some firms offer a free initial consultation to clients who have assets or income above a certain level but we offer every new client a free appointment regardless of their financial position. This provides the opportunity for prospective clients to obtain preliminary advice on their situation and to meet with us and decide whether we are the right firm to deal with their case.

Family Law at its most complex

In a recent case known as X v X from 2016 a High Court Judge made decisions that have puzzled some practitioners. His decisions show that even in most complex of financial disputes arising from divorce a broad-brush approach can be used rather than a full and detailed evaluation with ascribed and sectioned decisions.

In this particular case the couple were in their mid-forties, married for 14 years and had four children all of whom lived with the husband. The wife also suffered from alcoholism.

In terms of assets the parties held approx. £15m to £41m depending upon valuations of a trust and some shares. Quite unusually the value of the shares had massively increased between the date of the judge hearing the case and the date of his decision (approx. £15m more).

At its simplest this case involved arguments relating to a high value company (in which the Husband held a pivotal role), a complex trust, post separation accrual, stellar contributions, premarital assets, post separation endeavour, alcoholism, and unequal contributions post separation and during the marriage. While the case held much by way of assets, there was clearly much also to consider as to the nature, origin and use of assets as well as the needs of children and two parties.

This case is exceptional not just because of the value of the assets involved or their nature, origin or use but also because the judge sought to deal with arguments broadly with a view to doing what he felt was fair to the parties. In this case the Wife received 37.5% of the total assets available as found by the Judge.

The case serves as a reminder that court’s hold a broad discretion in proceedings concerning the distribution of assets following divorce and the parties may have wide ranging and complex arguments whether the assets amount to millions or hundreds of thousands and involve companies, trusts or properties. Expert advice from reputable practitioners is a must in order to obtain the best settlement for.

Who are we

We are a specialist family law practice based on the High Street in Newport. We deal with divorce, financial distribution on divorce, children matters and disputes between unmarried partners in addition to a broad range of other family based matters. Our solicitors have specific knowledge and
experience in this particular branch of law that only comes with specialisation. We have created the largest family specialist law firm on the Isle of Wight because we believe being geared towards this area of law will provide clients with the best service, best outcomes and will therefore allow the firm to excel.

We only tackle family law matters. We set up from the beginning to deal with simple, complex, small scale and large value matters. We have clients who own millions in assets and others who simply want a speedy resolution without complexity and delay. We hope matters can be dealt with through
correspondence, but if not we deal with court work and settlement by other means if necessary.

We have sought out and put in place the best staff, IT systems, service procedures and connections that are honed to provide us with the resources to deal with these types of cases.

So why should you use a specialist? A general practitioner can give broad advice on a range subjects but cannot give the advice and insight that comes with specialisation. We therefore offer more accurate and reliable advice and provide strategy and tactics only a practitioner who deals with
these matters daily can provide. This will almost always result in a better, faster and more workable solution. It is also, for those reasons, less expensive when outcomes are compared.

We offer free initial consultations in order to allow prospective clients to obtain some initial advice on their situation. This provides the opportunity to meet with us and discuss how we can help and what outcome they can expect. We rarely come across a prospective client who chooses to use another practice though we actively encourage people to compare us to other firms.