Friday, August 14th, 2020
It is not hard to see the attraction of trying to save money by handling the legal process yourself and doing a DIY divorce. Court forms have been simplified and there is even now an online application for divorce available. Particularly if matters are amicable there is sometimes a concern that involving solicitors is going to make everything more adversarial and expensive. At this point a DIY Divorce would seem to make perfect sense.
However, while a DIY divorce can seem a good idea you should be aware it could end up costing you significantly more in the long run. As with many other issues in life it is important to have the right skills to tackle the job. After all, there are lots of online videos that can help you with DIY plumbing, but you probably still wouldn’t want to rely on them and replumb your whole home singlehandedly.
While the divorce forms can look simple the questions can be deceptive and one mistake could result in the entire petition being rejected which would require a whole new application to be made. It is also particularly the case that a DIY divorce can flounder when matters are not amicable and there is a risk that the other party might not return the divorce papers.
While there are a number of online sites offering to help you with a DIY divorce for a low fixed fee this is often without any advice, tailored or otherwise.
It is also important to have knowledge of the whole divorce process and not be caught out like Andrew McLeod-Baikie who was charged with bigamy after remarrying after mistakenly believing he was divorced when he obtained his first divorce decree, the Decree Nisi, but never made the application for the final Decree Absolute. His wife had obviously obtained more comprehensive advice as she knew to report him to the police for bigamy when she saw his wedding photos on Facebook.
The other important point that people often misunderstand about divorce is that this only deals with dissolving the marriage itself. It does nothing to resolve any matrimonial financial or children matters that are nearly always present. In the absence of any specific application or agreements on financial matters both parties’ claims will remain open pending remarriage. There was the 2015 case of Wyatt v Vince when an ex-wife received a pay-out 20 years after the divorce from her now multi-millionaire ex-husband which serves as a warning about failing to tie matters up at the time.
It is therefore important that financial matters are dealt with concurrently with the divorce and these can easily be dealt with amicably with an agreement reached and a consent order sent to court for judicial approval. This provides both parties with the finality and certainty they need.
Whilst, again, there are numerous online companies offering low fixed fees for submitting a consent order to court, this is often done in the absence of legal advice and, as with online divorce, often ends up costing much more to fix (if it can be fixed even) than it would have cost to have done correctly in the first place.
We are seeing increasing referrals from clients seeking to set these aside and there are also concerns about the potential for fraud given a consent order could be submitted to court from an online legal provider who has taken no steps to ascertain whether the signature of the other party is genuine or not. It is very difficult to overturn a consent order unless specific grounds of material non-disclosure or fraud are made out. It is also a very expensive court application compared to the costs of negotiating a financial agreement in the first place. Therefore, the parties could end up in a situation where they are bound to an agreement that they were never advised was unfair.
When you instruct a Hanne & Co solicitor to assist with your divorce you can be sure of comprehensive and bespoke advice. You will know how best to get matters dealt with to avoid delays and a service which provides an efficient and effective end to what is a difficult chapter in anyone’s life.
You also will be given holistic advice on the whole range of applicable family law matters such as child arrangements and finances so all legal aspects of your relationship breakdown can be resolved. We have a large team of family lawyers with combined post-qualification experience of over 120 years. Our solicitors are technical experts in their field and have dealt with the whole gamut of family law matters from the average to the extraordinary. We also have the important benefit of being able to call on the specialist advice of our colleagues in our other departments such as Property and Probate when help may be required on related matters.
We offer fixed fee first appointments, free initial 15-minute telephone consultations and competitive charges thereafter.
Elinor Feeny is a Solicitor in Hanne & Co’s Family & Divorce Law team