On “divorce day” – the day of the year that people are statistically most likely to file for divorce – the scheme has revealed that divorce related problems are still a high cause of legal complaints in England and Wales.
In 2015-16, the Legal Ombudsman dealt with almost 500 complaints relating to matrimonial law.
Complaints about costs were the largest cause of complaints in matrimonial law, accounting for 29% of reasons for complaining. Delays, failing to advise and failing to follow instructions were other drivers of complaints to the Legal Ombudsman.
A remedy was required in 60% of cases. Remedies included refunding fees or providing compensation for financial losses, as well as compensation for the emotional impact of poor service.
However, there is some good news. There was a continued downward trend of complaints in this area. A reduction in access to legal aid may have been a contributing factor, reducing the number of people accessing family law services; but the data also suggests that lawyers are beginning to make improvements in the way they deal with complaints – reducing the need for Legal Ombudsman involvement.
Chief Ombudsman, Kathryn Stone OBE, said: “Going through a divorce is a hugely emotional time in someone’s life. Lawyers should be there to help the process run more smoothly, not to make things worse.
“We encourage lawyers to be clear about their costs at the start of a case and throughout, as well as progressing cases in good time. I am pleased that the volume of divorce related legal complaints has gone down, but clearly there are still lessons to be learnt.”
A free guide to using divorce lawyers is available on the Legal Ombudsman website.