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The withdrawal of public funding for financial claims in divorce cases was clearly demonstrated earlier this month in the case of Welch and Welch. The divorced couple had been involved in a court battle over their assets for several years. The most recent claim was brought to court by Mrs Welch in an attempt to increase her spousal maintenance, on the basis that her ex-husband had not provided full financial disclosure earlier.

Without the benefit of legal advice, Mrs Welch represented herself and brought numerous applications before the court for a range of orders against Mr Welch and even at one point the judge. This resulted in a very expensive costs order being made against her as the court did not agree with her case. The feud had been described as, “bitter and intense” by one judge and clearly demonstrates the benefit of obtaining objective legal advice and knowing when to stop.

The extent to which Mrs Welch was able to pursue so many court applications resulted in Mr Justice Holman sitting in the High Court taking the very unusual step of making a restraining order against Mrs Welch. He prevented her from starting any new claims in the divorce proceedings. However he did preserve her right to vary her spousal maintenance if the circumstances were justified.

The Welch case clearly demonstrates the problems caused by the removal of public funding from divorce work. Not only are cases like this, run by litigants in person, with little or no merit, taking up the courts limited time but had Mrs Welch been able to claim legal aid she would have had the benefit of protection from costs orders made against her. Perhaps with sound advice she may not have pursued her ex to such great lengths?

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