It ain’t what you do, it’s the time that you do it: the importance of mediation.

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A judgment earlier this year in the case of Rochford -v- Rochford serves as a salutary reminder to parties to litigation of the dangers of refusing to mediate at an appropriately early stage.

The case involved a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 by a daughter against the estate of her father.  Subject to a gift of £25,000 to the claimant, £2,000 to her son and  £25,000 to one of his sisters the deceased gave the remainder of his estate to another sister who was also named as the executrix of his Will.

The net estate was valued at about £245,000 of which the sister/executrix was due to receive approximately £193,000 less legal fees.

The deceased had separated from the claimant’s mother when she was five.  After that the claimant had a difficult, sometimes abusive relationship with her father.  Although she owned her own property worth approximately £500,000, she had had to give up a reasonably well-paid job by virtue of developing a spinal degenerative disease.  This left her unable to work and reliant on an Income Protection Scheme paying out approximately £2,000 per month although this was due to cease at age 60.

Having reviewed the relevant law and applied the relevant criteria under the Inheritance Act, the judge decided to award her an additional £85,000 above and beyond the £25,000 which was already due to her.

The judge found that the claimant had made a number of reasonable offers to settle all of which were rebuffed including an offer to mediate.  The defendant refused to mediate for over a year saying she had concerns about the claimant’s disclosure of documents.  By the time a mediation occurred, it was too late as a lot of costs had already been incurred.

In addition, the claimant had at an earlier stage, made a Part 36 offer in the amount of £56,000 which was rejected but which she clearly beat at trial.  On that basis as well as ordering a payment of the additional £85,000, the court also ordered the defendant to pay:

  • An additional 10% of that amount.
  • Interest at the rate of 5% per annum, on both the amount of the award and the costs.
  • Costs on the more generous indemnity basis and an interim payment on account of costs of £60,000.

As the judge said, “It was clearly very much in the interests of all concerned that there should be a mediation at the earliest possible opportunity and that the parties should seek to resolve their family differences without involving the courts.”

Speak to our Family Disputes Team

Paul Grimwood is a Partner in the family dispute team at IBB Law and as such is able to provide advice if you find yourself in this situation.  Contact Paul on paul.grimwood@ibblaw.co.uk or call 01494 790047.