Lawyers acting for celebrity divorce solicitor Fiona Shackleton’s firm have served a defence to a claim of negligence brought by a former client.
Payne Hicks Beach is being sued by banker Christopher Smith, who claims a mistake by Shackleton cost him £250,000 in child support.
The firm has instructed Fishburns partner Sheona Wood to act on its behalf and has now filed a defence. Fishburns has instructed 4 New Square barristers Patrick Lawrence QC and Oliver Wise to defend the action.
Rosenblatt Solicitors lawyer Simon Walton, who is representing Smith in the claim, confirmed that his firm is in the process of preparing its reply. He has not yet instructed counsel.
According to the claim, banker Smith paid Shackleton, a partner at Payne Hicks Beach, more than £95,000 for legal advice regarding his obligation to pay child support tof his former partner (26 March 2012).
Smith said that Shackleton is considered to be a “leading expert in her field” and he was “entitled to expect the highest standards of skill and care”.
Payne Hicks Beach was instructed prior to the child’s birth to negotiate child support payments after he split up with his partner, art collector Rachel Verghis.
A deal to pay Verghis £7,000 a month in child maintenance, plus money for rent, was struck, but when Smith took his business to Levison Meltzer Pigott, he was told that a Child Support Agency assessment would have made him pay just £658 a month – £8,000 a year.
Shackleton has acted for a number of high-profile clients, including former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney on his divorce from Heather Mills (28 August 2008).
Smith was advised by her between May 2010 and June 2010, over his rights and responsibilities towards the child he was expecting with Verghis in December 2010.
Smith claims that Shackleton was “negligent” and alleges that if he had been “correctly” advised, he would not have agreed to the order. He alleges to have lost out on £264,351.80, which includes the £95,700 he paid Payne Hicks Beach.