Legal Ombudsman Reveals mainly Complaints About Divorce Lawyers

A revelation came from the legal ombudsman that they do not receive more complaints in any other area of law than in family law and especially divorces.

According to a report called The Price of Separation, last year 18% of complaints that the ombudsman resolved were on divorce cases and family law.

The reason of a quarter of the complaints was the fact that most of the couples claimed they did not get enough information on the cost of their divorce.

An example was cited in the report explaining the case of a complainant who had first agreed a specific budget with her law firm but in the moment when their bill reached the very limit they asked the law firm to stop but it continued to act on her behalf.

In the end the bill was £15,000 larger than they initially indented to pay.

The lawyers are meant to do more to “save customers from themselves” and the long and expensive legal battles.

“In the case of divorce, that may be to counsel them against prolonging the case or fighting an unwinnable fight: persuading them that although they are angry and upset at their spouse’s behaviour, court may not be the best place to fight out those emotions,”

Another thing the report mentioned was that family lawyers and law firms do not do enough to keep clients up to date with the price of their cases.

The head of the LeO, Adam Sampson, said there was nothing strange in the fact that divorce lawyers received more complaints having in mind that most of their clients are too emotional and this way they create their problems on their own.

“However, clearly lawyers could be doing more to reduce complaints by providing accurate cost information, providing decent service levels and by taking complaints seriously,” he added. “I think this report challenges lawyers to raise their game and make the divorce process less painful for consumers.”

The LeO has republished their Cost Guide for Lawyers on their website, as well as publishing a consumer guide for using a divorce lawyer.

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Co-operative The First to Add Family Law to its Offerings

The first consumer brand to add Family Legal Services to its basket is one of the well established market leaders – the Co-operative.

It was recently announced that due to the official launch of the Co-operative family law services, the supermarket brands will enter into the reserved legal services. As stated by the mutual, the customer service charter that will be published premises that there will be ‘no nasty surprises’ on the product fees. Additionally, the charter will also include a jargon-free service, according to which clients will be treated as individuals. This strategy has been used by The Legal Stop, as well in order to make it easier for everyone, when it comes to legal documents online.

Since the changes of Legal Services Act 2007, it was the Co-operative to become the foremost consumer brand to be granted with an alternative structure for its business in April. Christina Blacklaws, Law Society council member for child care and former TV Edwards partner, leads the family law unit. According to latest news, the Co-operative will present a full list of the family law services available. These will include, but are not limited to, child protection, divorce, financial issues and mediation. Additionally, the Co-operative has the license to provide to customers a face-to-face legal help for Westminster. The mutual will also apply for other licenses in the nearer future.

The Legal Services of the Co-operative was set up in 2006 and it is estimated that out of the 500 staff employed, 281 are actually lawyers. A recruitment plan has been introduced in the beginning of June so that the number of staff could increase by 3,000 over the following years.

Family Court Improvements Proposed

Top Judge prepared a number of recommendations concerning the increase of efficiency of family courts.

Mr Justice Ryder, who is supported by the Lord Chief Justice, proposed some changes, which could possibly help to improve outcomes and increase the case procession speed. Currently cases such as divorce, custody or abuse are often dealt with too slowly, as too much time is taken until the final decision is made. The idea proposed is that there can be placed a cap of 26 weeks for dealing with the case and its conclusion.

Another change featured in the recommendations is a single family court to be dealing with the cases. currently many cases are being sent from one court to another and often being handled by a variety of judges and magistrates , who might not have enough contact with each other.

It should improve the communications, as a single building would house all family courts (wherever possible), and judges and magistrates will be able to easily communicate with each other, as well as with the case holders. This will lead to a faster outcome and smooth case handling. In addition,  establishment of family court support centres is also proposed. This will serve to provide legal and administrative help to people, in terms of linking between courts for example.

Another important part of the changes suggested features a great attention to the children involved in family law cases. The proposal suggest measures to help children better understand what is happening and why certain decisions are being made by the court. Also, the changes proposed focus on children`s view and opinions, as often they are the ones affected by the decisions the most.

The report includes a portion of criticism over the appearance of expert witnesses in cases, where this is not so necessary, “Experts are misused and over-used,”he says. Limiting their usage is one of the points, which will respectively lead  to more training and guidance for the judges.

Mr Justice Ryder explained his recommendations, by saying: “The judicial modernisation programme is a plan which is designed to ensure that there is a robust framework in place to give effect to both the judiciary’s proposals and legislative change”.

The changes are expected to be applied in two phases. The first phase will take place by the end of 2013 and it will put in place structures and “leadership and management principles”. During the second phase in 2013-2014 judges will be trained and prepared for the Children and Family Bill, which will probably deal with the idea for 26 week cap for all family law cases.