Letter: Litigants beware

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Sir: Both as a solicitor and a mediator trained by the Family Mediators' Association, I have sympathy with the problems encountered by Mrs Symon (letter, 7 September) when the proposed terms of settlement agreed in mediation were not approved by solicitors.

There are two observations to make. First, solicitors are obliged by a court practice direction to try to reach an agreed settlement in order to minimise the costs of protracted litigation whose outcome is uncertain; but they are also obliged to advise clients of what is in their interests. Secondly, while independent legal advice is essential for couples making agreements which have long-term consequences, it is for each of them to decide whether the advice given by their professional advisers is acceptable.

A solicitor who advises a client that he/she is giving more or accepting less than the court is likely to award has to warn that the costs of litigation may change the financial picture entirely, and that the decision of the court may not be to the satisfaction of either party.

Yours faithfully,

WENDY MANTLE

London, NW5

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