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This article was published on March 25th, 2019
As the cost of living continues to rise, the temptation to grab a bargain where you can is almost insatiable, especially if you can do it from the comfort of your sofa at home. However, DIY divorces are not advisable.
In a recently reported case, the former President of the Family Court, Sir James Mumby highlighted the dire consequences of mistakes in the divorce process.
In this article, we reveal why getting a DIY divorce isn’t worth the hassle, as well as some of the perils and pitfalls of a, ‘do it yourself divorce’.
Much like treating an illness, where you go to a doctor who has spent years training and learning how to deal with all manner of illnesses, in order to discover the process to ensure you receive the right treatment for your symptoms, a divorce requires a professional who knows the complicated processes involved when going through a divorce and ending a marriage properly.
In order to successfully end a marriage without any major complications, there are a number of vital administrative steps that must be completed in a very specific way before a decree absolute (the final divorce certificate) can be obtained.
A family law solicitor such as a member of the Thorneycroft Family Law team will have the training and experience to spot any errors and can ensure that your divorce goes as smoothly as possible.
There’s a reason that it takes several years for a solicitor to become fully qualified, it’s because the law is complex.
If you are thinking that a DIY may be an option, we would strongly advise against it.
Court forms must be 100% accurate in order for their submission to be recognised, and as they are filled with complex terms and subjects, those with an untrained eye are at risk of having their forms returned which will incur increased costs as well as potentially lengthy delays in the divorce process.
Worse still, getting it wrong may mean a risk that your divorce is not actually valid. This is what happened in a case recently reported in the legal press.
The couple had been married only a short time and had hardly lived together before they decided to divorce. The husband prepared and sent in his own divorce application (called a “Petition”) which had various mistakes in it. It went back & fro a few times for correction but was eventually issued by the Family Court in Bradford.
Unfortunately, the Court staff (and subsequently 2 Judges) missed a serious error.
The divorce was proceeding on the basis that the couple had lived apart for 2 years and that the Wife agreed to the divorce, but no one spotted that when the Petition was issued, the full 2 years had not elapsed.
Amazingly the error was not picked up, so the divorce went through and was made absolute, and then a year later the Husband remarried abroad. It not until over 3 years after the divorce and during a kind of audit process that the error was picked up by Court staff and then the question arose as to whether the divorce had actually been legal and valid. If it was void, it meant that the Husband’s new marriage would be invalid.
Over the next two years there followed a number of visits to the Court which incurred a great cost and much anxiety before the latest hearing in the High Court in London in front the most senior Judge.
There are pages of legal reasoning, but thankfully for the couple, the Judge found a way round the problem by changing the basis of the divorce so that the decree stood. All that ought to have been avoided if right at the start the Husband had invested a modest amount of money to pay an experienced Family lawyer to prepare his Divorce papers.
As with many purchases these days, the advertised price isn’t always the true cost.
This is especially the case with online DIY divorce packages. What many kits don’t advertise is the fact that in order to start a divorce a court fee is payable, this fee currently stands at £550 and in cases where the spouse or partner do not cooperate, an added cost is payable so that the person can be personally served with the court forms.
The main thing with a DIY or online divorce package is that it only deals with dissolving the marriage. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Much more important is the financial side of the breakdown – sorting out the house, pensions, maintenance and the like. Getting a fair outcome is vital and if you are not going to sell yourself short or store up future problems, you need professional advice from an experienced family lawyer about how the law applies to your individual circumstances.
Even if you reach an agreement, most people think that receiving the decree absolute is a sign that their ex-spouse is out of their lives forever and are ineligible to pursue any financial claims against them.
However, this isn’t the case. Often those who complete DIY divorces are unaware of this and are met with surprised when they receive formal legal proceedings from their ex requesting a share of their house or assets.
In order to ensure that this doesn’t happen, it’s important to include a solicitor from the beginning of the divorce proceedings. Our team of family law solicitors can help you ensure that your settlement is fair and appropriate and that a financial clean break is included in your divorce court order, meaning that you are fully protected.
In summary, whilst DIY divorces may look appealing from a financial point of view, you are likely to be faced with mounting costs and delays should even the smallest mistake be made. Importantly, it will only sort out part of the problem, leaving unanswered vital questions about the financial consequences of the marriage breakdown.
To avoid any nasty surprises it’s important to contact a solicitor as soon as you have decided to pursue a divorce.
Our solicitors have a wealth of family law experience and will provide you with the highest standard of customer care during your divorce.
Over many years of dealing with divorces, our team has come to the knowledge that no two divorces are the same. This allows us to provide you with compassionate and professional assistance to ensure your divorce goes as smoothly as possible, allowing you to focus on the next stage of your life after marriage.
If you would like an initial consultation to discuss your divorce or any other legal family matters you can call us for free today on 0800 1979 345 or you can complete our online enquiry form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.