Dealing with a family law matter can be a difficult and emotional time for many. However, it’s important to obtain the advice of a solicitor as early as possible to avoid complications. Senior Associate Solicitor Pauline Ellis shares a recent story which highlights why it’s so important to seek legal advice as soon as you can.
I have recently been consulted by Bob* who had separated from his ex-wife many years ago. They attended mediation, where he thought an agreement had been reached. His ex-wife’s solicitors prepared the documentation that was required by the court, and it was sent to him. In their letter, he was advised to take independent legal advice on the terms of consent order and documentation. He could not afford to do so, and therefore decided to sign the documentation and return it to the solicitors. His ex-wife solicitors then submitted the documentation to the court. The Consent Order was then approved by the District Judge.
When Bob received the Order from the Court, it was only at that point that he decided to question the terms of the agreement reached and approached me for legal advice. Unfortunately, by this point, it was too late.
When going through the terms of the agreement, it became apparent that what Bob had understood to be the agreement was not reflected in the Order, and where he thought his ex-wife could not touch his pension, there was a provision for her to do so in the event of his death. Unfortunately, by the time I got to see the terms of the agreement it was too late as it had already been approved by a District Judge.
Once a Consent Order has been approved by the Courts, it is often too late to change. It is extremely difficult to overturn the terms of an Order. The only grounds available to do this is that there has been fraud, duress or mistake. Even then, there are no guarantees that the Consent Order will be overturned and negotiations reopened. It is imperative that you seek legal advice before an Order is made and not after the event!
The moral of this story is that, even if finances are tight, it is extremely important that you seek specialist legal advice from a solicitor at the earliest opportunity. You may have a friend that has been through a divorce and they offer you advice which seems legitimate and sensible, but every case is different and it is best to seek expert advice from a solicitor before taking any action.
If you are in need of legal advice, our team of experienced and expert solicitors are on hand. Contact us today:
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*Bob is a fictional name for this article.