Fixed Fee Divorce

Introduction

This document sets out the terms on which we are able to assist you in respect of the matter for which you are seeking legal advice.

As you have elected to purchase a fixed fee product, we will advise you on a ‘partial retainer’ basis, the features of which are explained below. We will only advise you on the matter for which you are seeking advice and this agreement is limited to the advice that is included in the fixed fee option you have chosen. The lists below set out everything that is covered by the fixed fee. They also set out some specific, common areas of advice that are not covered. For avoidance of doubt, if the list setting out the advice or representation that is covered does not list any issue upon which you seek additional advice, that advice is not covered by the fixed fee and would have to be subject to another agreement.

Option 1Download our practical guide

Cost – Free of Charge

Includes

  • a clear and easy to follow guide to divorce proceedings
  • covers what happens if you are a Petitioner or a Respondent
  • a link to all the forms you need with and help on how to complete them
  • guidance on how to avoid common mistakes
  • easy to follow flow chart that maps out the procedure for you

Not included

  • payment of court fees (£593 for the petitioner)
  • liaison with the court or other party
  • advice on problems with service
  • advice on financial matters
  • advice on children

Please note that this guide should be all that you need to see your divorce through from start to finish provided that it is simple and uncontested. The guide also identifies where, due to problems arising, you may need to obtain specialist legal advice.

In downloading this free guide you need to appreciate that we will not be acting for you in any way. The guide is not a replacement for specialist legal advice tailored to you and your case.

Option 2 – Full Representation

Cost – Petitioner – £895 + VAT

Included

  • our guide (as above)
  • advice to help you identify your grounds for a divorce
  • face to face contact to complete the necessary forms
  • initial advice on any financial and children matters
  • we liaise with the court for you
  • we liaise with the other party for you
  • telephone/e-mail support throughout the life of the case on any matter relating to your divorce (other than children and financial matters)
  • additional face to face contact where needed

Not included

  • court fees (£593)
  • advice and representation on complex issues, e.g. service of documents in a foreign country or substituted service
  • ongoing advice/representation on financial matters
  • ongoing advice/representation on children matters
  • representing you in court

Cost – Respondent – £495 + VAT

Included

  • our guide (as above)
  • face to face contact to complete the necessary form (assuming you are not defending the divorce)
  • initial advice on any financial and children matters
  • we liaise with the court for you
  • we liaise with the other party for you
  • telephone/e-mail support throughout the life of the case on any matter relating to your divorce (other than children and financial matters)
  • additional face to face contact where needed

Not included

  • defending the petition
  • representing you in court
  • ongoing advice/representation on financial matters
  • ongoing advice/representation on children matters

These packages are designed to take all the hassle of the divorce proceedings away from you whether you are a Petitioner (bringing the divorce proceedings) or a Respondent (responding to proceedings brought by your spouse).

While you will need to see us to provide instructions on why your marriage has broken down, etc we will do everything else provided the divorce is uncontested and does not involve children or financial settlement.

Please note that, while this fixed fee provides for initial advice on any issues that may exist regarding children and financial settlements, it does not extend to continuing advice and representation beyond the initial consultation. If issues do exist and require ongoing advice and representation, this will have to form part of a separate agreement.

Option 3 – Pay as You Go

Alternatively, we offer a ‘pay as you go’ option.

You are free to download the FREE guide and instruct us on our normal hourly rates to assist with specific tasks or problems as suits your needs and budget. See 5.3.2 below.

General Terms & Conditions

1. Service standards

We aim to provide you with high standards of service at all times. We will:

  • keep you regularly informed in writing of progress with your matter;
  • communicate with you in plain language;
  • explain to you in writing the legal work which is required as your matter progresses;
  • keep you regularly informed of the cost of your matter and in any event every two months;
  • keep you advised of the likely timescales for each stage of this matter and any material changes in those estimates;
  • continue to review whether there are alternative methods by which your matter can be funded.

Unless otherwise directed by you, it is likely that our main means of corresponding with you will be via e-mail. We each agree to accept the risks inherent in e-mail. We confirm that any sensitive information/documents sent to you electronically will be sent via registered/encrypted e-mail.

2. Responsibilities

To achieve the best possible outcome in your case, we need to work together with you. We will:

  • review your matter regularly;
  • advise you on the law;
  • follow your instructions;
  • update you on whether the likely outcomes still justify the likely costs and risks associated with your matter whenever there is a material change in circumstances.

You need to:

  • provide us with clear and timely instructions;
  • keep safe any documents relevant to your case which either we or the other side may require and provide them to us when requested.

3. Hours of business

Our office hours are from 9.00 am to 5.30 pm Monday to Friday.

4. Anti-money laundering and Bribery Act 2010 Obligations

We are under a professional and legal obligation to keep your affairs confidential. This obligation, however, is subject to a statutory exception, which may require a solicitor who knows or suspects that a transaction on behalf of a client may involve money laundering or terrorist financing to make a disclosure to the National Crime Agency.

If we are required to make a disclosure in relation to your matter, will not be able to inform you that a disclosure has been made. We may also have to cease acting in your matter for a period of time and may not be able to tell you the reasons for it.

We are also under a professional and legal obligation under the Bribery Act 2010 not to engage in any activity that might impair our independence.

A bribe may include any payment, benefit or gift offered or given with the purpose of influencing a decision or outcome or as a reward for having already performed their functions or activities improperly. The bribe may not always be of a large value. It could be a lunch or an invitation to a sporting event.

Any client of the firm therefore needs to be aware that staff and directors cannot accept gifts of any nature. The firm operates a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to these issues.

The firm’s attitude to hospitality is that we may periodically hold hospitality events that are impartial and open to clients and associates of various backgrounds in order to build business relationships. Likewise, staff and directors are permitted to attend hospitality events held by clients and associates provided that they are arranged in good faith, with no intention of exerting undue influence and the value of the hospitality is reasonable and proportionate.

Please note that we are required by law to keep for a minimum of five years any data/documents that you have given to us in order to allow us to conduct due diligence checks upon you (and any associates, beneficiaries, etc as necessary). Our policy is to keep that data for six years such that its destruction coincides with the destruction of the data held on your file about your matter. If you object to this, you should speak to the solicitor responsible for your matter.

5. Financial matters

5.1. Financial arrangements

Our practice’s policy is to only accept cash up to £1,000 from clients.

If you try to avoid this policy by depositing cash directly with our bank, we may decide to charge you for any additional checks we decide are necessary to prove the source of the funds.

Where we have to pay money to you, it will be paid by cheque or bank transfer to an account in your name. It will not be paid in cash and will only be paid to a third party with your express, written consent. However, we will have to charge you for running checks on the third party in question.

5.2. Interest on money held in client account

Any money received on your behalf will be held in our practice’s client account.

We do not pay any interest to clients in relation to money held in our client account.

5.3. Costs

5.3.1. How we calculate charges

Our charges will be calculated by reference to the time we actually spend working on your matter. This will include:

  • attending meetings and negotiations;
  • reading, preparing and working on papers;
  • making and responding to telephone calls, e-mails, faxes and letters;
  • preparation of costs estimates, schedules and bills;
  • attendance at court and travel time.

5.3.2. Hourly rates

Our hourly rates are set out below. We review our hourly rates each year to take into account increases in costs. We will notify you in writing if the rates you are being charged are increased and the date from which the increases will apply.

We will charge you for each hour spent on your matter in accordance with the table below.  Please see the separate “client care” letter for information as to who is responsible for the conduct of your case and their hourly rate. 

Where others are required to assist with your matter, we will charge you the following hourly rates for their work:

GradeDescriptionHourly rate
ADirectors, solicitors and legal executives with over 8 years’ post-qualification experience£315.00
BSolicitors and legal executives with over 4 years’ post-qualification experience£250.00
CSolicitors of less than 4 years’ post-qualification experience, legal executives and staff of equivalent experience£205.00
DTrainees, paralegals and staff of equivalent experience£140.00

All routine correspondence which we write will be charged at 1/10th of the hourly rate, while routine correspondence we receive will be charged at 1/20th of the hourly rate.

All routine telephone calls, either made or received, will be charged at 1/10th of the hourly rate.

More complicated correspondence and telephone calls will be charged at the hourly rate for the actual time they take.

If your instructions mean we have to work outside normal office hours, we may increase the level of the hourly rates. We will notify you in writing of any increases.

We will add VAT to our fees at the rate that applies when the work is completed. Currently VAT is charged at 20%.

5.3.3. Fixed Fees

Your client care letter may specify that we have agreed to charge a fixed fee for our services.  If that is the case then the hourly rates listed above will only apply to any work we do outside of the work that has been agreed to form part of the fixed fee. The person conducting your case will inform you if you ask us to do work outside of the fixed fee and will provide you with an estimate for the additional work in advance of undertaking that work for you.

Should you cancel your instructions to us before the agreed work under the fixed fee is completed, we will charge you for the work done on your file at our normal hourly rates detailed above or we may (if a substantial proportion of the work agreed under the fixed fee has been completed) charge the fixed fee in full. If the work is calculated at hourly rates and that sum (including VAT) is greater than the fixed fee (including VAT) agreed upon, we will limit our charges to a sum equivalent to the fixed fee. If we charge are less than the fixed fee, we will refund any additional monies that we have on account from you.

5.3.4. Other expenses

There may be other expenses which we need to pay on your behalf. These can include:

  • court fees;
  • fees for expert reports;
  • barristers’ fees.

These will be listed separately on your bill and you may be charged VAT in relation to these expenses if they relate to our provision of legal advice to you.

5.3.5. Payment of expenses in advance

Where we have to make payments to third parties to cover expenses such as court costs or fees for expert reports, we will normally ask you to pay these to us us first. This will help prevent delays in your matter. As we become aware of payments which will need to be made, we will write to you to ask you to make payment to us to cover the payments as the matter progresses.

When we send you bills, we will make sure we include the amounts you have already paid. If there are any advance funds left over, we will put them against our fees which need to be paid. You should note that the total bill for expenses may be greater than the amount which you have paid in advance.

5.3.6. Payment of bills

We will send you an interim bill for our fees and expenses every month while the work is in progress, unless agreed otherwise. This enables you to budget as the work progresses. We will send a final bill after completion of the work.

You may also set a limit on the fees and expenses we can incur in relation to your matter. This means you have to pay our fees and expenses up to this limit, but we must ask your permission to continue working on your matter if it looks like you will have to pay us more than the limit you have set. We will write to you before we reach the limit, and explain why your matter is likely to cost more, review our estimate of how much your matter is likely to cost and ask you to agree a new limit, before we do more work on your matter.

Payment of an interim or final bill is required within 14 days. We may charge you interest on unpaid bills at 8% per year, from one month after the delivery of our bill.

If this matter does not proceed to completion, we will charge you for the work done and for expenses incurred.

We are entitled to pay your bill from monies received by us on your behalf and to retain your file papers or other property until payment is made.

5.3.7. Banking Security

Fraud is prevalent in today’s world and we at GN Law have taken steps to try to reduce the dangers faced by the business as far as we can, most importantly in relation to client monies that we hold. As a result, the following approach will be taken on all matters: –

Action that WE take here at the firm: –

  • we operate multi-factor authentication on our computers/laptops which includes our use of e-mail and on logging into our online banking facilities.
  • For payment of most of our bills to you we use ‘Legl’ an online payment system that protects both our account details and yours.
  • We will NEVER change our account details. If we give you our account details (i.e. if for some reason we are not asking you to pay us using ‘Legl’) to make a payment directly to us, we will NEVER e-mail you or call you to change them. If you receive any such contact from someone purporting to be from the firm, please telephone the office immediately.
  • Any payments or account details we take from you or give to you will be done at the start of the case (and, as above, will not change).
  • If we attempt to make a transfer of funds to you (or anyone linked to your matter, e.g. a beneficiary of an estate) via internet banking and the bank account details we have been provided with do not receive a verification on our online banking system (this is a banking security system that matches account details we enter with the ones the recipient bank holds to check that they match), then BEFORE sending any funds to the account in question, we will send a test payment of £1 and then we will contact you/the recipient to check that it has been received before sending the balance.
  • We no longer use ‘faster’ or ‘real time’ payments for payments from client account. Client account payments made by us will always be made by BACS or CHAPS. There will be a 72-hour enforced delay between a payment request being made (within the firm i.e. from someone running a matter to our accounts department) and the payment being made to the recipient. This delay helps frustrate fraudsters who ideally like to get ‘in and out’ quickly. CHAPS payments are our standard method of payment for any payments of £50,000 or over and come at a cost of £30 + VAT which is payable by the client. CHAPS is also our default approach on any client account payments to third parties (i.e. not our client, e.g. beneficiaries of an estate in a probate matter) of £10,000 or more. These are also at a charge of £30 + VAT, payable by the client. All other payments are made by BACs, which are 3-day payments, and come at a charge of £15 + VAT.
  • Any telephone calls to our accounts department MUST be made from a phone with a traceable number. Calls made to our accounts department from a landline or mobile telephone where the number is blocked or withheld will NOT be put through.

Action that we suggest that YOU take as the client: –

  • ensure that your use of e-mail and banking facilities (online banking via a computer or via an App on your smart-phone) has two-factor/multi-factor authentication enabled to reduce the chance of fraudsters being able to access your e-mails or bank.

5.3.8. Recovering costs

If your matter is successful, you may obtain an order from the court for the payment of your costs by another person. However, in practice this usually results in only a part of the costs being recovered for you, because of the way in which the court measures the costs.

You have to pay our charges and expenses in the first place and any amounts which can be recovered will be a contribution towards them. If the other party is in receipt of legal aid without costs entitlement or is uninsured, they simply may not be able to pay.

5.4. Other parties’ costs

If you are unsuccessful in your matter, it is likely that the court will order you to pay your opponent’s costs in addition to our costs. Your opponent’s costs can be assessed by the court to see if they are reasonable, so you will have the opportunity to review the costs and ask the court to reduce them.

6. Equality and diversity

We are committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of our dealings with clients, third parties and employees. Please contact us if you would like a copy of our equality and diversity policy.

7. Professional indemnity insurance

Under the Indemnity Insurance Rules firms are required to take out and maintain qualifying insurance. Details of Guile Nicholas’ insurance can be found at our office(s), or you can contact us to request this information.

Guile Nicholas’ liability to you for any claim in respect of our services shall be limited to £3,000,000 unless we expressly state a higher amount in the letter accompanying these Terms and Conditions of Business. We will not be liable for any consequential, special, indirect or exemplary damages, costs or losses or any damages, costs or losses attributable to lost profits or opportunities. We cannot limit our liability for death or personal injury caused by our negligence.

8. Data protection

We use the information you provide primarily for the provision of legal services to you and for related purposes including:

  • updating and enhancing client records;
  • analysis for management purposes and statutory returns; and
  • legal and regulatory compliance.

Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, the Data Protection Act 2018/General Data Protection Regulations (UK GDPR) and our duty of confidentiality. Please note that our work for you may require us to disclose information to third parties such as expert witnesses and other professional advisers. Our Privacy Notice (which you will receive in addition to these Terms and Conditions) provides further detail about how your data is stored and treated by us and our approach to the UK GDPR.

9. Storage of paper file and digital data

After completing the work, we will be entitled to keep your file of papers/documents and digital data while there is still money owing to us for charges and expenses.

We will keep your paper file and data (except any of your papers which you ask to be returned to you) for no more than six years. We will keep the file/data on the understanding that we have the authority to destroy it six years after the date of the final bill we send to you for this matter. We will not destroy documents you reasonably ask us to deposit in safe custody.

If we decide to retain your file/data for a longer period, we will advise you of this in writing at the conclusion of your case.

If we retrieve papers or documents from storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to act for you, we will not normally charge for such retrieval. However, we may charge you for:

  • time spent producing stored papers requested; and
  • reading, correspondence or other work necessary to comply with your instructions in relation to the retrieved papers.

10. Outsourcing

From time-to-time we will outsource typing and photocopying on our files to ensure that they are dealt with in a more-timely manner. We will always gain a confidentiality agreement with the outsourced service provider. Should you not want your file to be outsourced please tell us as soon as possible.

11. Review of files

Our practice is subject to audit or quality checks by external firms or organisations. These external firms or organisations are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files.

12. Limitation of liability

Our liability to you for a breach of your instructions shall be limited to £3,000,000 or such other higher amount as expressly set out in the letter accompanying these terms of business. We will not be liable for any consequential, special, indirect or exemplary damages, costs or losses or any damages, costs or losses attributable to lost profits or opportunities.

These limitations apply only to the extent that they are permitted by law. In particular, they do not apply to any liability for death or personal injury caused by negligence.

13. Applicable Law

Any dispute or legal issue arising from our terms of business will be determined by English law and will be submitted to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.

14. Ending our services

You may end your instructions to us in writing at any time, but we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is still money owing to us for charges and expenses.

We may decide to stop acting for you only with good reason. For example, if you do not pay an interim bill or there is a conflict of interest. We must give you reasonable notice that we will stop acting for you.

If you or we decide that we should stop acting for you, you will pay our charges up until that point on an hourly basis and expenses set out in these terms and conditions.

GN Law/Guile Nicholas Solicitors (incorporating Donald Galbraith & Co.) is the trading name of Guile Nicholas Ltd, Company Registration No. 07928914; Registered Office is 43 Lodge Lane, North Finchley, London, N12 8JG.

Guile Nicholas Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA No.567042).

© Guile Nicholas Solicitors – V2 Nov 2021

GN Law

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