Choosing a divorce attorney is important, and the truth is that the wrong decision can cost spouses a lot of money. While missing out on a few dollars is not a big deal, some spouses lose hundreds of thousands simply because their lawyers made serious errors. This might seem unthinkable, but it happens more regularly than most people realize. So what happens next? Can spouses turn around and sue their lawyers for this terrible advice? In some cases, yes:
British Law Firm Ordered to Pay Spouse $500,000 for Negligent Advice
On April 24, 2023, it was reported that a British law firm had been ordered to pay 400,000 pounds to a divorcing woman. The sum is equivalent to about $500,000, and it reflects the alleged negligence committed by the law firm. According to the lawsuit, the law firm failed to provide this woman with the proper advice – causing her to emerge from the divorce with a settlement of just 30,000 pounds. The truth is that she should have walked away with a settlement of 500,000 pounds. Why? Because her ex’s pension was worth a pretty penny – something that the wife’s law firm failed to mention.
The truth is that the law firm appears to have done very little wrong. When you look into the details of this situation, a few puzzling things emerge: First, the woman decided to negotiate her own divorce settlement without the law firm’s help. It seems that she essentially worked out a deal with her ex behind closed doors and brought the final draft of the settlement to the law firm for final review. The law firm stated that it could not comment on the fairness of the deal without the husband’s full financial disclosure, which was never provided. The firm even had the woman sign a legal document stating that she understood that they could not provide accurate advice on this matter.
Still, this seems to have been enough to warrant a successful negligence claim. The court determined that the plaintiff was a very vulnerable individual who had an extremely basic understanding of the legal world, and that the law firm should have known this. The fact that the law firm neglected to provide advice is itself a form of negligence, according to the court. This led her to believe that she could not rely on any lawyers at all. Furthermore, the court determined that the law firm should have known that the pension was the largest asset in the marital estate, and that they should have assumed that this was worth pursuing.
The judge stated:
“I find that any reasonably competent solicitor would have advised the claimant that the proposed settlement order was obviously and exorbitantly one-sided in the husband’s favour, giving the claimant less than 15% of the disclosed matrimonial assets and leaving her with an inadequate financial provision in the future, and particularly in retirement.”