Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Family Lore Clinic: How much does it cost in court for child matters?
I shall assume that the question refers to private law child matters, i.e where there is no involvement by the local authority, and that 'child matters' refers to disputes about arrangements for children, particularly residence and contact disputes.
The first thing to say is that legal aid is not now available for private law child matters unless domestic violence is involved, or there is a risk of child abuse.
The amount that a solicitor will charge for representing a client in connection with a private law child matter will depend upon how much work is involved. This can range from a few hundred pounds for a case that is settled quickly, to many thousands of pounds for a case that goes all the way to a contested hearing. Obviously, therefore, it is essential that every effort be made to settle the case by agreement, possibly with the help of a mediator.
Different solicitors charge different amounts, depending particularly upon their experience and location. When you instruct a solicitor you should be told of their charging rate, and be given an estimate for the likely total cost of the case (this estimate should be updated as the case progresses). You should also be informed in advance of any expenses involved, such as court fees and barristers' fees.
If you find that you cannot afford to continue to instruct your solicitor, then you can ask them to stop acting for you at any point, and proceed with the case representing yourself. You can also set a limit of the amount of costs that your solicitor should incur - they should tell you when that limit is being reached.
Before you instruct a solicitor to represent you, you should raise with them any queries you may have regarding their charges for acting for you.