Financial Remedies Working Group
The final report of the Financial Remedies Working Group has been published. It follows the interim report produced on 31 July 2014. The report is the product of the Working Group established in June 2014 by the President of the Family Division and chaired by Nicholas Mostyn J and Stephen Cobb J.
The remit of the Group was to look at 4 areas, namely:
Litigants in Person
Standard Order in Financial Remedy Proceedings
Arbitration in Family Proceedings.
In addition to these areas the Report’s authors felt it appropriate to comment on the question of legal costs in financial proceedings. One of the Group’s members of course, Nicholas Mostyn J having presided over the case of J v J  EWHC 3654 (Fam) – further details of which can be found in our blog post here – since the Group started its work on the Report.
The Working Group specifically commented on legal costs as follows:
…..22. It is clear that many people feel that the method by which most family lawyers charge (on a time charge basis) is unpredictable and that the overall levels of costs are high. The group believes that this in part drives some litigants to act in person rather than to instruct solicitors.
23. The group has received representations regarding the re-introduction of the Calderbank system. The group is opposed to its reintroduction but does recognise that litigation misconduct needs to be addressed. Rule 28.3 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 enables the Court to make orders for costs where there is litigation misconduct. This rule needs to be applied more generally. The group would wish to emphasise that litigants-in-person are not immune from its consequences.
24. Mostyn J in J v J  EWHC 3654 (Fam) expressly raised the possibility of fixed price costing and judicial costs capping. The group noted this development, but also noted that these are complex and difficult issues for practitioners and that it would not be appropriate to take the issues further until professional bodies such as Resolution, the Law Society and the FLBA have been given the opportunity to engage in a discussion on the subject.
25. The group suggests that the costs working party of the Family Procedure Rule Committee should be invited to give consideration to costs issues, including the issues of fixed price costing and judicial costs capping…….”
It will now be interesting to see what further discussion takes place. Since the decision in J v J many legal commentators have already made comment, on both sides of the argument for and against fixed fees.
At Paradigm Family Law our approach has always been that an experienced family lawyer can make a judgment as to what a case is worth, based on the individual circumstances of the parties. A client is entitled to expect a fixed fee from the outset, and one that means they can budget from day one – no alarms and no surprises.
We prioritise our client. We know through experience what it takes to resolve a case and can provide a fixed fee accordingly. We focus on our client, and running the case so as to minimise conflict. We collaborate, offer mediation where appropriate but above all else act in our client’s best interests.
‘Something must be done’
What is certain at least if Nicholas Mostyn J. gets his way is that ‘something must be done’, indeed his starting point was the comment of Munby J in KSO v MJO and JMO (PSO Intervening)  EWHC 3031 (Fam),  1 FLR 1036 in a case in which he drew comparison to Charles Dickens’ fictional case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce. Munby J quoted from Chapter 65 of Bleak House:
‘Something must be done about the problems highlighted by this and by too many similar cases. We simply cannot go on as we are. The expenditure of costs on the scale exemplified by this and by too many other such cases is a scandal which must somehow be brought under control.’
Resolution has responded to the findings of the Working Group. Their response can be found here. They are broadly supportive, but feel the report focusses on high net worth clients rather than the ‘average’ family court user.
If you would like to discuss fixed fees for your case or need family law advice please contact Paradigm Family Law on 0845 6020422 or email us at [email protected] in the strictest confidence.