One of the less pleasant issues that your family lawyers business may encounter is a client who has not paid their due fees and is showing little sign that they are willing to do so. There can be many reasons why this might occur, with one of the most common being a client not being happy with the outcome of their case and blaming their family lawyer for that.

What then transpires is that the client quite wrongly thinks that because the outcome was not to their liking they should not pay their family lawyers. Unless the case was taken up by the family lawyers on a ‘no win no fee’ basis then despite the client being unhappy, you and I know that the fees are payable.

Should you ever be in a situation where a client refuses to pay what is owed to you, then it might be worth you seeking the advice of someone else in the legal profession, and that is a commercial lawyer. This has two main benefits with the first being that a commercial lawyer is going to know more and have more experience of dealing with non-payments and legal processes for them than yourself.

The second benefit is that when your commercial lawyer writes to your client, that client is going to realise that you are taking the matter seriously, and so should they. They may have received countless letters from you concerning their case, but when they receive a letter from another legal professional which you have employed to represent you, there can be no doubt in their mind that you are pursuing payment.

Initially, your commercial lawyer will probably advise that they will send the client a letter of demand for the outstanding fees. The letter will contain the amount which is owed and also give the client a set number of days within which they must make payment to you. The good news is that in the vast majority of these scenarios that letter alone is enough to jolt the client into making the outstanding payment.

The response from the client might be to request they be allowed to make payment in instalments, and unless you have any major reason not to, this should be granted. There is little to be gained in rejecting payment instalments and instead pursuing payment in full when the client has already admitted that they do not have the funds to pay the full amount.

If there is no response to your commercial lawyer’s letter, or the client replies indicating they will not pay, then that is the point you would instruct your commercial lawyers to commence the legal process. The mechanics of this is that you would file your claim with the Magistrates Court.

The amount of money that is owed will determine which court will ultimately deal with your case. If the amount is less than $75,000 it will be the Magistrates Court, and if it is greater than $75,000, your claim will go to the District Court.

Whichever court is dealing with your claim, you must be aware that even if it rules in your favour, it does not guarantee that the money will be paid to you anytime soon. If the client is still resitting payment, then the next stage is enforcement proceedings. This can lead to the client’s assets being assessed, seized, and sold to generate the funds required to pay their financial debt to you.