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LSPOs: What if I can't afford legal fees for divorce and don't qualify for legal aid?

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LSPOs: What if I cant afford legal fees for divorce and dont qualify for legal aid?

Amy Langlois, solicitor in our Family Team, looks at Legal Services Payment Orders (LSPO); discussing how they can be used during divorce when a person can't afford legal fees and doesn't qualify for legal aid.

What to do if you can’t afford legal fees for divorce?

There are a number of options open to you, some of these are as follows:

  • Seek advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Seek initial free advice from a firm of solicitors
  • Ask your solicitor if a payment plan can be agreed
  • You may be entitled to fee exemption from the court regarding the court fee
  • You may be entitled to legal aid

What if I don’t qualify for legal aid?

Again, there are a number of options open to you, some of these are as follows:

  • You should speak with the firm of solicitors you wish to instruct to see if they offer a payment plan to act for you, or if they agree to enter into a ‘Sears Tooth’ Agreement.  A ‘Sears Tooth’ Agreement is where your solicitor deducts what you owe them from the proceeds you might get from your divorce settlement.
  • Obtain a litigation loan.

If you are still unsure how you are able to proceed with legal representation due to financial restraints, please read on.

Are you the stay at home party who is not eligible for legal aid, have no income or savings and cannot afford legal representation?

If the answer is yes to the above then you need advice on Legal Services Payment Order (LSPO).

Alternatively, you can do a divorce yourself online, however there are Pros and Cons to this. We have written a full article on DIY Divorce, which weighs up the cost as well as the Pros and Cons; you can read that here.

What is a LSPO and when do I need one?

What is a LSPO?

This is an order where one party to the marriage is ordered to pay the other an amount for the purpose of enabling that party to obtain legal services. It can also be:

  • A one-off lump sum payment
  • Payments in instalments
  • Payment for a specified period, for example, the whole proceedings or up to a particular stage in proceedings
  • Immediate payments
  • Deferred payments

An LSPO can also be varied in the event of a significant change in circumstances since it was made.

When can I apply for a LSPO?

You can apply for a LSPO in the following proceedings:

  • Divorce
  • Nullity
  • Financial remedy
  • Judicial separation

How do I qualify for a LSPO?

There are a number of factors a court would consider when making a LSPO and they are as follows:

  • The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of the parties has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.  As far as earning capacity is concerned, that includes any increase in earning capacity which, in the opinion of the court, it would be reasonable to expect either party to take steps to acquire.
  • The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities of the parties either now or in the foreseeable future.
  • The subject matter of the proceedings, including the matters in issue.
  • Whether the paying party is legally represented.
  • Steps taken by the Applicant to avoid all or part of the proceedings, whether by proposing or considering mediation or otherwise.
  • The Applicant’s conduct in relation to proceedings.
  • Any amount owed by the Applicant to the paying party.  In particular, the court must consider whether the order is likely to cause any undue hardship to the paying party or prevent them from obtaining legal services for the purposes of the proceedings.

What do you have to show the court as the Applicant (for a LSPO)?

  • You do not have sufficient funds and the Respondent does
  • You are not able to obtain a litigation loan (must provide two rejection letters from two reputable commercial lenders).
  • You have not been able to enter an agreement with your solicitor where they deduct what you owe them from the proceeds you might get from your divorce settlement (a ‘Sears Tooth’ Agreement).  Your solicitor to provide a statement of refusal.
  • You are not able to charge any property you may own.
  • You are not entitled to legal aid.

Does my ex-spouse have to pay for a LSPO?

It is not mandatory for your ex-spouse to pay for a LSPO but if the court considers you qualify for a LSPO then your ex-spouse will be ordered to pay you one of the following, in order to enable you to obtain legal services:

  • A one-off lump sum payment
  • Payments in instalments
  • Payment for a specified period, for example, the whole proceedings or up to a particular stage in proceedings
  • Immediate payments
  • Deferred payments

What if my ex-spouse doesn’t pay for an LSPO?

In the event your ex-spouse does not comply with a LSPO, there are a range of methods available for enforcement.  Speak to one of our friendly family solicitors for further advice.

How do I apply for a LSPO?

The application process is as follows:

  • 14 days’ notice must be given.
  • Use Form D11.
  • Statement in Support.
  • Draft Order
  • In your application, you must include details about the legal fees you have incurred and to be incurred.

A specialist family solicitor's view

Amy Langlois, solicitor in our Family Team, says: "It is worth noting that any order made by the court should normally contain an undertaking by the Applicant that they will repay the Respondent such part of the amount ordered if the court is of the opinion, when considering costs and the conclusion of the proceedings, that they ought to do so."

Divorce solicitors in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Ringwood

If you would like to discuss LSPOs, LSPO enforcement, 'Sears Tooth' agreements or anything else; please contact one of our friendly family solicitors.

Initial meetings for all new clients are free of charge and will usually take place over a cup of tea or coffee at our modern, town-centre offices, however we are currently having these over the phone or video conference.

Call us on 01202 499 255 or visit the contact us page here if you’d like to get in touch.

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