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Am I mad to represent myself at court hearing for financial settlement?

(28 Posts)
Twitterqueen Tue 16-Oct-12 15:11:52

Long story short... Highly acrimonious divorce, I have nisi but not filed for absolute because ex has continually changed his mind, stolen joint monies, reneged on previous agreements etc. No child support for 6 months, no mortgage contributions etc.

He then refused to settle the draft agreement, that I only agreed in tears of desperation because I had 3 DCs in the car, plus all my belongings in a removal van, and I couldn't complete on my purchase unless I agreed to everything he wanted.

He then refused to supply details of his pensions so that we could move things forward.

Move on a year, and I'm so fed up I instigate ancillary relief proceedings in order to get a settlement, asking for around £15k more than is in the draft agreement because he misrepresented his assets and as I said above, wouldn't pay maintenance until the CSA made him He is now cross-suing me - before my first ancillary hearing - to make the draft agreement stick. I have been quoted £850 for 30 mins representation in a court - and my solicitor can't represent me because she's on holiday.

I have all the facts, figures dates etc. I don't want to represent myself but feel I have no choice. Ex has just been made redundant so I know I will not get any child support for months to come, so I just can't afford the £850.

Advice please?

Ginda Tue 16-Oct-12 18:02:35

How horrible for you. I had a very acrimonious divorce myself so you have my sympathy.

In my experience (I am a lawyer, but not a family lawyer), judges bend over backwards to accommodate litigants in person and this usually puts the other party - if they are represented - to additional cost as their Counsel/solicitor is expected to assist the unrepresented party with court bundles etc.

It will be intimidating but you can do it. Don't be bullied by your exH.

ToothbrushThief Tue 16-Oct-12 18:08:39

I agree with Ginda. I self repped. I was used to a court environment so that helped. Stay factual and ....er stay factual.... Don't let lies provoke a reaction from you. Just repeat the facts/evidence and good luck.

olgaga Tue 16-Oct-12 19:02:30

I remember your previous posts I think?

Yes you can certainly DIY, just make sure you're on top of the facts, your Form E, his response(s) and be absolutely clear about your needs.

Don't worry about the draft agreement, that's all it was - a draft. Just say you have now had the opportunity to give your position a more detailed examination and you appreciate the opportunity to put he facts as they are today before the judge.

sneezecakesmum Tue 16-Oct-12 20:43:05

From experience I agree with the others that judges bend over backwards to help self reppers. Can you take someone with you as a Mackenzie friend?

If you have all the facts and figures clearly before you it should be OK.

mumblechum1 Wed 17-Oct-12 08:04:34

So the hearing coming up is just the First Appointment, not a final hearing?

Twitterqueen Wed 17-Oct-12 09:05:17

Gosh thanks everyone - I'm reassured and strengthend - but still petrifiied.

mumble this first hearing is not part of my ancillary relief process as far as I can make out - ex has initiated this court hearing outside of my action.

Sneeze I don't know what you mean by a Mackenzie friend? But yes, I will take someone with me, even if it's just to sit outside in the car park and wait for me.

I'm thinking that 30 minutes is only a tiny part of my life, and the worst that can happen is that the judge enforces the draft agreement. In which case I still haven't lost anything - I will still get the pension sharing allocation he has consistenly refused to give me. So I'm a winner either way!

Collaborate Wed 17-Oct-12 09:34:36

If you've been ordered to file a financial statement, and then questionnaire, statement of issues etc, before the hearing, then it's a first appointment.

If you're unsure about the type of hearing it is you should speak to a member of court staff. If you're unsure about what to do you could instruct a solicitor on an adhoc basis to give you advice as and when you need it. This would work out cheaper than having them act for you in every respect.

Twitterqueen Wed 17-Oct-12 09:58:34

Thank you Collaborate.

mumblechum1 Wed 17-Oct-12 10:22:25

Remember to make sure and file Notice of Acting in Person if you're sacking your current solicitor, otherwise all paperwork will go to them and they'll charge for the work involved in sending it on to you.

MOSagain Wed 17-Oct-12 15:37:38

I wouldn't automatically dismiss the 'draft' agreement. There have been cases where they have held weight and parties have argued there was an 'accord' (yes, sounds very pirates of the carribean) - google the case of xydhias and see whether this may apply to your case.

Ref the £850, whilst this might sound a lot, this will not just be for a 30 minutes First Appointment. I would imagine it will include preparation for the hearing to include updated Form Es?

Twitterqueen Wed 17-Oct-12 17:28:51

I think it will be up to the judge on the day...

Ex has now been made redundant so I will get no child support going forward - which I'm hoping will strengthen my case to get some additional money - and no, I don't mean from his redundancy package. We have several thousand pounds tied up with the building society (I took on the family mortgage at a higher rate, so there was no redemption penalty, but ex insists he should have it). I've offered many times to split this 50/50 but he has always refused.

The £850 is for a barrister - who knows nothing about my case and won't represent me again. There is no meeting beforehand and no form Es have been requested for this hearing (only for my ancillary relief hearing). It is simply for the judge to decide whether or not the draft agreement should be enforced. If not, then my hearing is on Nov 26tth.

Mumble I'm not sacking my current solicitor, she's on holiday when this hearing occurs so her solution was to get the barrister. But I don't see the point when she doesn't understand or know what's gone before, and neither will he. I have a far better grasp of the finances than they do.

MOSagain Thu 18-Oct-12 09:35:41

Twitter, on that basis, I'd self-rep. Good luck

sneezecakesmum Fri 19-Oct-12 17:35:20

A McKenzie friend is a non legal person who can sit with you in court and help advise you as they basically know the workings of the court and just having someone with you can boost your confidence. You can google for one in your area and they charge around £40-60 an hour with travelling expenses. Obviously loads cheaper than a barrister and if you feel secure in your paperwork they are a useful moral and informative prop.

they do this

•Sit beside you in court and direct you to your notes and evidence
•Take notes.for your final submissions
•Suggest questions for you to ask from your court bundle
•Keep you focused on your case and what you want to say.
•Be another pair of ears to listen for you.
•Help you stay less emotional and give factual responses.
•A party may be allowed to introduce a McKenzie friend into court to assist them. There is no right to have a McKenzie friend: the only right is that of the litigant to have reasonable assistance.
•A McKenzie friend is not entitled to address the court without permission. If he does so, he becomes an advocate and requires the grant of a right of audience under s 27 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 2007.

Collaborate Fri 19-Oct-12 18:13:24

Please note though OP that a McKenzie friend usually has no legal qualifications.

Twitterqueen Sun 21-Oct-12 16:11:40

Thanks Sneeze and Collaborate. that's really interesting. I will take a look at that.

The latest is that ex is not providing Form E info by tomorrow as directed by the Court. Their argument is that because they expect the 5th Nov hearing to be decided in their favour there is no need to put 'their client' to the expense of providing the info.

I have all mine prepped, but now I don't know who to give it to! Do I send a copy to the court?

MOSagain Sun 21-Oct-12 16:16:53

Yes, if due to lodge at Court by tomorrow then send yours as planned

bevelino Sun 21-Oct-12 16:30:34

Your solicitor should have assisted you by arranging for another lawyer from her office to attend with you in her place, to ensure that you are appropriately represented. Alternatively, if she knew she was going to be away, could have agreed with your ex's solicitor and the Court to defer the date of the hearing until she returned. You should not be in a position where you are worrying about preparing for the case alone or be expected to pay a barrister you have never met. You have enough stress going on and if you are unable to deal with the case on the day let the judge know and ask for a new date.

olgaga Tue 23-Oct-12 08:53:03

Twitterqueen you are supposed to exchange Form E so that you have time to ask questions about the information he has declared, and if necessary ask for further documentation in advance of the hearing. The date for exchange is part of the directions from the court.

What do the lawyers here think about their refusal to exchange Form E?

TiAAAAARGHo Tue 23-Oct-12 09:02:01

I wouldn't think the court will be impressed if the H has been directed to provide Form E and refuses to do so. I'd write to the court explaining what you have been told (i.e. they refuse to comply with the court's directions and therefore it may be necessary to postpone the hearing in order for you to be able to review and assess information provided when he deigns to provide it). I would also say in the letter that if the hearing is postponed, you would like any costs involved in the vacated hearing to be paid by the H because he is the one refusing to comply with the courts directions.

Collaborate Tue 23-Oct-12 09:40:48

You wouldn't postpone the hearing. The judge will need to make directions about how to proceed from there. It will at least need to be retimetabled.

Twitterqueen Wed 24-Oct-12 14:25:59

I have told the Court that he has refused to provide a Form E. But the Form E submission related to my hearing, which is on 26th Nov.

His solicitor's argument is that because they're going to win at the hearing on the 5th, which is solely for the judge to decide whether or not to enforce the draft verbal agreement, the Form E will not be required....

But surely he's still in the wrong not provide the info at all? Will I gain anything by asking for a postponement?

I'm so sick of him and the whole business. I just want a judge to make him do something. The CSA rang today to tell me child support will end this month too - he's redundant (could be voluntary) - he won't make provision for the children going forward at all. Is it worth me telling the court that too, or will that be deemed to be irrelevant to enforcing the draft agreement?

BTW - thanks everyone! Really appreciate the feedback.

iheartdusty Thu 25-Oct-12 20:14:43

I have come across this, where a party says they will hold back their Form E until a draft agreement is tested to see whether it ought to stick. The reason being that if the agreement is binding, it won't matter what else anyone might have ordered instead.

The main case about whether people are bound by agreements in this kind of situation is called Edgar v Edgar.

What the court will be asking itself is - "would it be unjust if this agreement wasn't enforced". Basic principle is that people are entitled to be able to rely on agreements which were reached fairly, and not have the ground cut from under them by a change of mind on the other side.

So what the judge will look for is:
- was there a concluded agreement - ie you both said 'yes' to the same thing;
- was there any pressure by one side, exploitation of a dominant position to secure an unreasonable advantage;
- did one or both parties have inadequate knowledge, about their rights or about the total assets available;
- possibly, was there bad or no legal advice;
- has there been an important change of circumstances since the agreement, which was unforeseen or overlooked at the time of making the agreement.

In your situation, it might be hard for your ex to show that you knew all about the available assets if he doesn't have a Form E to show the judge that everything was declared. But it isn't essential for the Form E to be there ready for your hearing on the 5th.

The CSA thing is irrelevant, I'm afraid, but it won't hurt to show him in a bad light.

Twitterqueen Fri 26-Oct-12 12:01:05

thanks Dusty, there certainly was pressure, bad legal advice and inadequate knowledge so fingers crossed...

Twitterqueen Fri 23-Nov-12 18:07:04

Absolutely dreadful experience.
Judge was venomous, spiteful and sexist.

He asked me if I was with anyone now (I'm not - NEVER AGAIN) - he didn't ask STBX.

He asked me why I thought I should 'cash in' on STBX's pension (ummm maybe the fact the I supported him through periods of unemployment, worked contract/part-time to enable him to travel abroad when he was working,, which meant I didn't get a pension..., went back to work full-time when eldest was just 2 because he refused to get a job... ) Really, I can't think why....

He wasn't interested in the fact that STBX had stolen joint monies, or refused to pay child support. He wasn't interested in me sobbing down the phone because STBX refused to let complete my purchase until I'd agreed to give him another £10k..

He asked why I thought I should be entitled to STBX's redundancy money - and didn't give me the chance to say I didn't feel entitled, I know very well that I'm not legally entitled, and I wasn't asking for it. The only thing I was asking for was back-payments of unpaid child support, which was only about £2,000 - it's the principle.

I now have to pay the mortgage redemption penalty, my (only) life assurance and more, to a total bastard who has walked away with more than 50% of total assets and has carte blanche to refuse to pay anything for 3 daughters at any time in the future. (He won't even pay £5 pcm.)

Anyway, the really funny thing - and actually this is funny - is that I've now applied for the Decree Absolute because the judge did force an agreement - which I was very pleased about, and which STBX can't wriggle out of. BUT the court has refused to grant it! (Because the Nisi was granted over a year ago.)

It doesn't make any difference to me at all, but I know it's really going to piss STBX off big-time.. I explained in my application the reasons why (ie advised not to by solicitor because of no financial agreement) and that said judge had now said I could - but NO! I wonder what the benefit of this is?

The law really is an ass.

NO idea what to do now. Don't care. Will never get married again anyway.

Reading the above, I sound really bitter. Actually I'm not. He's got what he wanted, which was money. I've still got what I've always had, which is self-respect, because I have done everything legally, fairly and transparently.

I'm looking forward to a new year - and many more - when I don't have to think about him at all.

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