Family Lore Clinic: What happens if I do not respond to a letter from my spouse/partner's solicitor?

I thought I would reprise my Family Lore Clinic posts, giving brief general advice, based upon search terms that found their way to this blog. Hopefully, these posts will be of use, although they are not of course intended to be a substitute for detailed advice upon a specific matter, for which the reader should consult a practising family lawyer (you can find a specialist family lawyer here).

The first query I want to deal with is a common one: what happens if I do not respond to a letter from my spouse or former partner's solicitor? I answered a very similar query back in 2014.

Receiving a letter from your spouse or former partner's solicitor can of course be a traumatic experience. It may be upsetting, it may make you angry. The temptation may well be to tear it up, ignore it, or simply hope that it goes away.

But it will not go away.

Of course, exactly what happens next depends upon why exactly your spouse or former partner consulted their solicitor. But generally speaking if you ignore letters from their solicitor then the next thing that you are likely to receive is an application to the court, as that will be the only way that your spouse or former partner's solicitor can progress the matter. And that may mean you having to attend court, and incurring costs, even if you do not instruct a solicitor yourself.

A senior barrister once told a client of mine that court is a mug's game. There is much truth in that. Often the only real winners in contested court proceedings are the lawyers. The parties incur costs, stress and expense. And often the final order that the court makes is not what either party wants anyway.

In short, court proceedings should be avoided if at all possible. Instead, every reasonable effort should be made to settle the case outside of court.

But that requires the cooperation of both parties. And that is why you should not ignore a letter from your spouse or former partner's solicitor. Instead, you should engage with them, either yourself, or preferably by instructing your own lawyer.

Of course, it may not be possible to agree matters, in which case court proceedings may be necessary. But why make them inevitable?