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Divorce online – great innovation or legal minefield?

By , on Monday March 29, 2021 at 12:20 pm

Applying for divorce online

When the fully digital divorce application service was first launched in May 2018 it promised to take the stress out of divorce and ease the process. Being able to apply online certainly means things can move far more quickly than previous paper applications.  It looks like the perfect way forward but that doesn’t mean it’s always an easy road. The number of enquiries that we are now receiving from people who have applied for divorce but now realise they are in a battle over finances attests to this.

Divorce online isn’t the end

Divorce only ends the marriage, it doesn’t mean that arrangements for children or financial settlements are resolved, simply that you are no longer married. I fully understand that everyone wants to limit their costs when it comes to divorce but if you don’t have the facts before you start you may make things far worse for yourself than you realised.  Whilst using the online system may save you time and appear cheaper, if you’ve not fully understood what you’re actually getting it can make things worse and much more costly.

Questions you need to consider before you divorce

When I speak to a potential new client for the first time about divorce I ask if they’ve agreed arrangements for the children and if they’ve talked about how they will resolve their finances and it often throws out things that they’ve not considered at all.  This is sometimes because they haven’t or don’t feel able to talk to their spouse but often it’s because of the subtle nuances of the law that they didn’t know. Do they have or need matrimonial home rights or if the home is jointly owned how is this worded and what impact might that have? Does one of them think the children will be living with them and spending time with the other whereas the other thinks they will have shared care arrangement moving forward? Have they discussed child maintenance? What financial support do the parties need? We then talk about how these discussions might be progressed, whether they can do this directly, want me to assist or want to consider mediation as a first step.

An online divorce can enflame disputes

Even if these things have been discussed and people are really amicable and tell me it’s all agreed it may be that their spouse reacts badly to receiving the divorce papers from the Court, particularly if this was without notice because the other person has applied online and not mentioned it, or not realised the papers could be dispatched within the week.

Most divorces rely on unreasonable behaviour which requires examples. This is never an easy read for the person receiving the divorce paperwork. Providing your spouse with a heads up of what’s going to be said in the divorce papers or even that they are on the way can prevent future hostility and avoid the other person drawing battle lines because they feel affronted. There are many occasions I’ve seen a spouse refuse to entertain discussions over the children or the house because of the resentment they feel from the divorce being a surprise or has moved too quickly.

Divorce doesn’t have to be a battlefield

‘Love is a Battlefield’ so the 80s anthem goes, but divorce doesn’t have to be.  It’s so important to gather the information first and be empowered to know what the stages, what else needs to be done and how to move forward.

You know your ‘ex’ best, your divorce lawyer won’t know them at all. But they will have much more experience of seeing how people can react to divorce and prepare you for the worst.

Before you apply for divorce online here are 5 things to consider

  1. Have you told your spouse you are planning to apply for divorce?
  2. Have you discussed financial arrangements and are you in agreement?
  3. Do you know where your children will live and what the arrangements will be for them to spend time with the other parent – and is this agreed with your spouse?
  4. Are you expecting to receive child or spousal maintenance and how might your spouse react to this?
  5. What will happen to the family home when you divorce?

If you need help understanding your options and how the law would approach each of these issues do contact us for an initial consultation. It will put your mind at rest or arm you with all the facts you need to navigate a more straight-forward ending of your marriage.

Blog Author - Woolley & Co

Woolley & CoWoolley & Co

Woolley & Co, solicitors are divorce and family law solicitors with lawyers based all over the country.


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