A Do-It-Yourself Divorce you may think will be quicker, cheaper and easier than if you were to instruct a solicitor. There are of course pros and cons to whichever way you decide to go.
However, family lawyers deal with a number of cases where parties have attempted their own divorce only for there to be an error made. The Court rejects their divorce petition and it often requires re drafting and re serving. Those parties end up paying the same amount of legal costs they would have paid if they were to have instructed the solicitor in the first place.
On the other hand, those who have downloaded the forms from the Court users’ website and successfully dealt with their own divorce will be better off having only had to fund the court fee.
Presently the Court fee for issuing a divorce petition is £550. Whether you do it yourself or instruct a solicitor, you will have to pay this court fee to get your petition issued. Solicitors’ fees to advise you and deal with the process on your behalf can vary depending on whether you are offered a fixed fee or placed on hourly charging rates.
Divorce proceedings, whichever way you chose to do it, generally take between 4 and 6 months to conclude. This is due to the Court process and only if the divorce is straightforward. There have been articles in the media recently claiming that divorce proceedings can be dealt with swiftly within 6 weeks. This is entirely untrue.
What can cause a delay in divorce proceedings?
Divorce proceedings can take longer if the other party, known as the Respondent, fails to return the necessary paperwork to acknowledge receipt of the divorce petition. Or, on occasions, Respondents can decide they wish to defend the divorce proceedings. Sometimes simple errors can be made within the petition and as such it will be rejected by a Judge and will need to be amended, and occasionally the petition re-served, before the divorce can proceed. Finally, and most importantly, when financial separation cannot be resolved this can delay the divorce process sometimes by up to a further 18 months.
Parties should always try and resolve financial matters at the time of dealing with divorce proceedings. The recent landmark decision made in the Supreme Court case of Vince v Wyatt served as a warning to divorcing couples when the Court allowed the wife’s claim for financial relief to proceed 20 years post separation.
In the absence of legal advice a divorcing couple attempting a DIY divorce could end up agreeing to a financial separation that is unfair and does not best meet their needs or the needs of any dependent children they may have. Alternatively, they may not realise that any agreement they have reached is not legally binding unless it is placed in a formal order and approved by a Judge, leaving themselves open to a potential claim in the future.
There is no substitute for good legal advice. Each party should always take legal advice before or whilst commencing divorce proceedings in relation to financial separation.
There are also a number of other issues that divorcing couples may not have considered or even been aware of if they do not take legal advice. For instance, until a Decree Absolute of divorce a husband and wife will inherit from the other in the event of their deaths. To avoid this couples should consider making a new will. If you do not have a will your husband and/or wife will inherit from you under Intestacy Rules in any event.
That said, having weighed up the pros and cons, you may still wish to deal with your own divorce. You can still do that but first be sure to take legal advice.
Farleys’ team of expert family lawyers are able to provide advice and assistance in relation to, not just divorce and financial separation, but a number of related matters such as prenuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements, matters relating to children and domestic abuse. Contact us on 0845 287 0939 or complete an online enquiry form.