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What is a legal services payments order?

December 16, 2021

If you begin proceedings to obtain a divorce or dissolve a civil partnership, part of this process will involve agreeing a division of your finances with your spouse or civil partner. It is important to obtain legal advice as this is a complex area of law, although this can be costly if your finances are complicated or if it takes a significant period of time to reach an agreement.

You can apply to the court for a legal services payments order (LSPO), where your spouse or civil partner will be required to pay a sum of money to cover advice from a solicitor, barrister, payments to the court, or other legal fees. You may also apply for a LSPO against the parent of your children to cover costs for a child arrangements order application where you ask the court to decide the contact arrangements with your children.

The payments under a LSPO can be by way of a lump sum, instalments, or as payment for a specified period, such as a part or whole of the court proceedings. The money can be used to cover advice and assistance in the form of legal representation and any form of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation.

In order for your application to be successful, you must demonstrate that you:

  1. Would be unable to obtain legal advice if the LSPO were not made.
  2. Cannot reasonably secure a loan to pay for the legal advice.
  3. Are unable to obtain a charge over property, which is where a debt is secured against your property in case you do not repay.

The recent case of LP v AE [2020] EWHC 1668 (Fam) provides guidance about applying for a LSPO.

In June 2019, the mother applied to the court for the father to contribute towards her solicitors’ and barristers’ fees in the sum of £117,000 for a fact-finding hearing in child arrangements proceedings.

However, the court ordered the father to pay £35,000 based on a quotation he provided from a barristers’ chambers who would act on a direct access basis, which means they would be instructed directly rather than via solicitors. The order was dependent on the mother returning to the jurisdiction with the child and the £35,000 was paid to her on 3 July 2019. The mother’s legal fees exceeded this amount and on 16 September 2019, the mother’s new solicitors asked the father’s solicitors whether he would cover her fees from August 2019, but they refused.

The mother did not apply for a LSPO until 20 November 2019 when she sought an additional £99,000 to cover the work up to and including a hearing listed on 16 December 2019.

The mother appealed the initial decision about her application for a LSPO and the court ordered the father to contribute £40,000 plus VAT to cover the remaining court proceedings but the father was not required to pay the mother’s costs between August to October 2019 because she had instructed new solicitors and had not applied for a LSPO when she should have done.

Therefore, if you do require financial assistance from your spouse, civil partner, or the other parent of your children to cover your legal fees, it is important to apply to the court as soon as possible and it is sensible to instruct the same solicitors throughout the matter.

Wallace Robinson & Morgan Limited are based in Solihull and Dorridge and serve clients across Birmingham and the West Midlands, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and further afield. Our team of Family Lawyers are happy to help if you would like advice about divorce, dissolving your civil partnership, or dividing your assets.

If you would like to discuss your matter, please call 0121 705 7571 and ask to speak to a member of the Family law team or email us at

This article is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute technical, financial, legal advice or any other type of professional advice and is no substitute for specific advice based on your individual circumstances. We do not accept responsibility or liability for any actions taken based on the information in this article. For more information, please click here.