Last week Gary came over and handed Mary a written agreement for her to sign. He told her that since all of the assets are in his name he had generously agreed to transfer her the family home while he retains everything else. Mary hasn’t worked since the birth of their eldest son. She knows Gary has lots of money, savings, investments and properties. She thinks as they have been married for so long that she might be entitled to more but with no money or assets in her own name she knows she can't afford the solicitor's fees to get advice or find out. Gary has called again today and told Mary if she doesn't sign the agreement he'll withdraw his generous offer.
If you were Mary what would you do?
We have assisted many clients who have found themselves in similar situations to Mary. They often feel pressured into accepting a poor deal because their spouse holds all the assets and they can't afford to pay solicitors fees for advice or conduct court proceedings. In these cases we have made an application for a Legal Services Payment Order where their spouses are ordered to pay amounts towards their legal fees which then enables them to obtain legal services.
The court has power to "make an order or orders requiring one party to the marriage to pay to the other (“the applicant”) an amount for the purpose of enabling the applicant to obtain legal services for the purposes of the proceedings." Legal Services Orders have become increasingly common since the withdrawal in public funding (Legal Aid) in England and Wales.
While it is always better to try and negotiate a contribution, if your spouse is unwilling to agree to help with your legal fees it may become necessary to make an application to the court.
Before dismissing litigation altogether consult a Dual Qualified solicitor who can indicate if your spouse should be contributing to your legal fees.