Court costs: A word of warning

There’s no denying the fact that going to court can be an expensive process, with fees from your legal representatives and court fees adding up to substantial sums of money over time, especially if your case is complicated. It’s understandable then, that you might worry about the financial consequences of any legal action you might undertake and potentially divorce costs.

It’s also understandable that as a consequence, the courts do not look favourably upon people who bring action against their ex-partner unnecessarily. It puts the respondent under undue financial pressure as well as having to endure the emotional stress of bringing a case to court.

In cases where the judge feels that the application should not have been made, but the applicant persists with their action, the result can weigh heavily against them. In the case of FQ v MQ [2014] EWHC 441 (fam) the father continued to challenge the jurisdiction of the court despite clear and repeated advice from the judge that he had no case. The father resolutely stuck to his decision and on that basis, work was done and costs were incurred on both sides, in preparation for the court hearing.

Only the night before the court appearance did the father change his mind and instruct his solicitors to withdraw his challenge.

As the judge said, ‘nearly £10,000 has been spent by the mother, who can ill-afford it, to attend court and present her case’, on an application that was ‘wholly and completely unnecessary.’

Because it had caused the mother ‘not only a lot of anxiety, but no doubt difficulties in raising the money’, the judge deemed it right and appropriate that a costs order should be made against the father. He was ordered to pay the mother’s costs of almost £10,000 in addition to his own costs. He undoubtedly put pressure on the mother by pursuing the action for as long as he did. But he reaped the consequences.

Your solicitor should discuss with you the potential costs involved in your case and the range of likely outcomes that can be expected. You should also be made aware that often, costs follow the event – that means, whoever loses the case will pay the costs. You can then make an informed decision as to whether you would like to go ahead. We recommend that you take legal advice before you act, as the cost of a good solicitor may be money well spent in the face of the financial consequences of not doing so.