Area of law: Family law
Complaint reason(s): Conduct, failure to advise
Remedy: £50 compensation
Outcome: Ombudsman decision accepted by complainant
Ms Z instructed the barrister to represent her in the final hearing in her divorce. The barrister’s job was to help her and her ex-husband come to a financial settlement. The barrister prepared a consent order, which as part of the settlement transferred the couple’s mortgage into Ms Z’s name. Ms Z signed the order.
Later, Ms Z decided to complain. Among other things, she complained that the barrister hadn’t been prepared for the final hearing and hadn’t known details of her ex-husband’s finances. Everyone knew, Ms Z said, that her ex-husband hadn’t been honest in his dealings. The barrister didn’t stick up for her, she said, and she wasn’t happy with the consent order at all.
We investigated and found that most of Ms Z’s complaints concerned the consent order. We saw that although she felt that she was pushed into signing it, the barrister had kept her informed of her options. Consent orders often involve sacrificing things to reach a settlement, but the barrister told Ms Z that she didn’t have to sign to consent order if she didn’t want to.
We did find, however, that the barrister had forgotten to include a clause in the order that would have allowed Ms Z to put off having to pay back the legal aid that had funded her case. The ombudsman decided that the barrister should pay Ms Z £50 to compensate her for the inconvenience of having to ask her solicitor to sort that out for her afterwards. Ms Z accepted the decision.