The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has analysed the top reasons why high cost family case plans are being rejected. High costs family cases are usually Children Act cases which are expected to exceed the value of £25,000. Subsequently it has provided some advice for family lawyers when preparing such case plans.
The number one reason for case plans being returned without agreement was missing vouchers or insufficient information in relation to the disbursements being claimed. The second biggest reason was the hours claimed for preparing a bill being excessive.
Disbursements are looked at in great detail and the MoJ requires full information for all items over £20. It has stated that disbursement vouchers are the best way to provide this information as well as setting out clearly in case plans details of disbursements and experts' fees including hourly rates, the exact type of work being undertaken and how the costs are apportioned.
Providing vouchers or invoices evidencing what is being claimed not only makes the case plan more likely to be processed but also helps to avoid delay. In the event that disbursement vouchers or estimates are not available, it is strongly advised to detail the type of expert, rates being charged, level of apportionment and work to be completed. Court Orders can also be provided as these are extremely helpful within the assessment process. In particular, DNA and drug testing disbursement claims should always be accompanied by a Court Order.
With regards to bill preparation being high, the MoJ has said that it is useful to explain reasons for this in the case plan so that everything is justified and explained clearly in order that a view can be taken.
Other common reasons for case plans being returned without agreement are: no details of the work undertaken by experts or the work information not being apportioned, no fee notes supplied for counsel and the case plan being outside of the four week deadline.