Area of law: Family law
Complaint reason(s): Delay; failure to follow instructions; failure to keep informed; failure to advise
Remedy: To pay compensation of £150 for inconvenience/distress caused
Outcome: Ombudsman’s decision rejected by the complainant
Ms Y was embroiled in an especially contentious and protracted divorce. Her estranged husband was proving very difficult to pin down. Quite apart from being generally uncooperative, he was also going through bankruptcy proceedings, which complicated things no end. So Ms Y’s solicitors had their work cut out keeping tabs on what the other side was up to. This wasn’t much helped by the firm’s rather tardy attention to a number of fairly important deadlines and details – filing the divorce petition on time, for example, and being very slow to keep Ms Y up to date with key
Ms Y brought a host of complaints about the firm to us, including that they had delayed progressing her case, not sent certain documents to her on time, missed court deadlines, failed to respond to queries quickly enough, offered poor advice in certain key respects and delayed the transfer of papers to a new firm of solicitors later on in the case. She wanted them to hand over £500 by way of compensation – equal to the amount she’d paid them before getting legal aid.
We found there had been poor service in some respects, especially in relation to the various delays Ms Y had complained about (filing the divorce petition, keeping her informed of developments, and so on). Although the Ombudsman acknowledged that the divorce had dragged on for what seemed an age (18 months or more), this couldn’t be attributed to Ms Y’s solicitors alone. The progress of divorce proceedings depends ultimately on the willingness of the other side to cooperate, to respond to requests for information, and so on. Despite being slow to act in some respects, Ms Y’s solicitors had been diligent in chasing her husband and his lawyers for the bits and pieces of information they needed to progress things at a reasonable rate.
The Ombudsman decided that compensation of £150 would be enough to cover the frustration and annoyance experienced by Ms Y. But they concluded that various other matters she’d raised in response to the report we wrote recommending this remedy were additional to and beyond the scope of our original investigation. Ms Y maintained nevertheless that she needed more money than this and rejected our decision. The case was therefore closed.