Sears Tooth agreements
Sears Tooth agreements

The following Family practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Sears Tooth agreements
  • The Sears Tooth case
  • Assignment of potential rights
  • Facts in Sears Tooth
  • Outcome
  • Practice points and case law

The Family Procedure Rules 2010, SI 2010/2955, 1.1 sets out the overriding objective, including that dealing with a case justly includes ensuring that the parties are on an equal footing. A Sears Tooth agreement may enable a spouse or civil partner who does not have the financial means to pay legal fees to obtain proper advice and representation within family proceedings. For alternative methods of funding, see also Practice Notes: Funding—legal services orders and costs allowances and Eligibility for family legal aid.

The Sears Tooth case

Assignment of potential rights

In Sears Tooth v Payne Hicks Beach, the court considered the validity of a deed of assignment in which the wife had agreed to assign her rights in any financial provision and costs orders (other than periodical payment orders). The court gave guidance as to the circumstances in which such an agreement would be appropriate and the requirements when a client enters into such an agreement.

Facts in Sears Tooth

  1. the wife had originally instructed the firm Payne Hicks Beach before instructing the firm Sears Tooth

  2. the wife instructed Sears Tooth to contest Payne Hicks Beach’s bill and issued negligence proceedings against Payne Hicks Beach

  3. because the maintenance pending suit order took the wife’s disposable income beyond legal aid eligibility limits, she executed a deed of assignment agreeing to assign her rights under a lump sum order

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