The Courts are currently saturated with individuals who have chosen not to be represented by a lawyer.
The knock on effect of unrepresented family cases typically results in court delays and a failure by individuals to comply with Family Procedure Rules.
Until recently, in matrimonial financial cases, the family courts have not generally made Orders for costs save for in extreme cases, and they are often unwilling to make orders for costs against unrepresented parties. Courts have sympathised with unrepresented parties as they are not being represented by a trained lawyer. However, a recent ruling (Veluppillai v Veluppillai  EWHC 3095 (Fam)) has gone against the grain and a cost Order was awarded against an unrepresented party.
Cost orders can be awarded against a party if they fail to adhere to Court direction, make unwarranted applications, or generally conducts themselves in an unreasonable manner.
This decision could open the floodgates for further such orders and acts as a warning against going it alone without legal representation in a matrimonial case. In Veluppillai v Veluppillai  EWHC 3095 (Fam), where the Wife was claiming for financial remedy following divorce, the conduct of the husband was described as ‘abysmal’ and led to over 30 hearings over a 3 year period. The husband had made threats to kill against the wife and her barrister for which he was committed to prison for contempt. He had been repeatedly warned by judges about his unpleasant menacing conduct in court. On one occasion he assaulted the wife and her barrister in court for which he was later convicted of assault. He skipped his sentencing hearing and fled overseas from where he bombarded the court with abusive emails claiming that he had a fatal illness and demanding that the proceedings be adjourned indefinitely.
The Judge found favour with the wife’s position and made an Order in the terms sought by her and ordered that the husband should pay the wife’s costs assessed in the sum of £146,609.
The Judge also took exception to the threatening nature of the Husband’s email communication with the Court and directed that it would be sent to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police for him to decide if any of the threats contained in emails were sufficient to establish a criminal offences.
It is clear that the husband’s conduct was about as bad as it could be but this should be a warning to those deciding to go it alone without a lawyer in a family case, the Court can and will make you pay your opponents costs!
If you wish to speak to Jolene Hutchison regarding any of the matters highlighted in the article, or for any other issues related to family law please contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org or give her a call on 01494 478603 or 07766013352.