There appears to be more and more people dealing with their own divorce without first seeking advice from a family lawyer. A 2013 YouGov survey showed that 26% of people involved in divorce had taken the DIY route, with younger people and those in London far more likely to take this approach. In the vast majority of cases, this can be due to financial constraints or when the parties believe that everything is agreed between them and therefore, they do not need legal advice. How wrong they may be!
Picking up the pieces of DIY divorce
As a family lawyer with 18 years experience, I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking legal advice from an experienced family lawyer prior to filing a petition for divorce with the courts. Now some might say that I am going to say that as otherwise, I would be doing myself out of work but the reality is I have spent many an hour undoing cases where clients have tried to undertake the job themselves and often this takes longer than if I’d been doing the work from scratch.
The divorce paperwork might appear self explanatory, however, it often isn't. I have advised many clients when the “wheel has come off” and they are at a total loss as to what the court wants them to do when a mistake has been made in the drafting of the papers. Often, when this happens, we advise that is might be quicker and easier to "start again". This does however involve us applying to the court to seek permission to withdraw the old application and to then start again. This can be both timely and costly. The best advice I can give therefore is to instruct a family lawyer from the outset and have the peace of mind that everything will run smoothly and without delay or additional costs.
DIY financial agreements are fine, but not legal!
The other really important point is in relation to the financial issues and settlement. Many people believe that if they have reached an agreement between them and simply file for a divorce that will be an end to it all. They often believe that once the decree absolute has been granted, and they are divorced, the other party cannot make a financial claim against them. That’s not the case. In every divorce case we will advise that a financial consent order is drafted and signed by the parties, even when they have reached an agreement between them.
Many who go down the DIY divorce route are not aware of the need for a financial order to protect them in the future. The court staff are not allowed to give legal advice and often, the parties financial claims are left open when a divorce has been undertaken without seeking legal advice.
You may have seen in the press details of the case of Wyatt v Vince where an application for financial relief made by a former wife over 18 years after decree absolute was granted. Rightly or wrongly, this case supports our invariable advice to clients that there should always be a financial order in place as well as the decree absolute!
The DIY divorcer will be oblivious to the pitfalls of "doing it themselves" both in relation to the divorce proceedings and the financial issues which arise from the breakdown in the marriage. You might be thinking you can’t afford proper legal advice when you divorce, but when you consider the potential consequences of getting a DIY divorce wrong maybe you should ask, can I afford not to take advice?
Divorce & family lawyer Lutterworth