One of the most common questions I am asked is “why can I not do my divorce myself?” The short answer is: you can.
However, divorce is a complex process and it is easy to make mistakes without help from a professional divorce lawyer. My advice would be to consider matters very carefully before embarking on a DIY divorce.
Some of the most important things to consider are:
- Stress – divorce can be a stressful and emotional time and having someone representing you can release some of that pressure.
- Paperwork -although there is no requirement for both or either party to be represented by a solicitor, there is a lot of paperwork.
The forms can be downloaded from the UK Government website. It is worth having a look at these first to decide how confident you are in completing them.
The court does not offer legal advice and therefore cannot help you with the process. Any minor or major mistakes as simple as not ticking a required box on a petition to insufficient information, can lead to rejection of papers and delay.
At worst you could be required to withdraw your divorce petition and reissue or submit an amended petition, all of which incur additional fees. If errors are made in the paperwork then the process can end up taking a lot longer and be a lot more costly than necessary.
Failure to complete the ‘prayer page’ of the divorce petition correctly is a common problem. When coupled with you and your spouse disagreeing over the split of your financial assets, it can even result in you losing your right to apply to court to resolve the finances of your marriage. So, if you intend to carry out a DIY divorce yourself, I would recommend you are 100 per cent sure you will complete all the paperwork correctly.
- Problems With Your Spouse - once the petition has been issued, there can be issues if the other party does not complete and return an acknowledgement. They may also wish to defend the petition or cross petition.
If the other party does complete the petition and matters appear to run smoothly, then, if it is your application, you still need to apply for decree nisi and decree absolute. This means further paperwork.
- Time Bar – when applying for a decree absolute there is a time bar. You need to wait at least six weeks after the date of the decree nisi before you can apply for a decree absolute.
If your spouse started the divorce process then you have to wait an extra three months before you are able to apply for the decree absolute. A financial agreement should be made before you finalise your divorce with a decree absolute.
- Finances – finances must be dealt with. Without recording an agreement in an official consent order you remain open to financial claims, meaning that years later your ex could make a claim against you.
For more details see Why You Should Deal With Your Finances Before Your Divorce.
We offer an initial fixed fee appointment for up to one hour for £204 including VAT to discuss the divorce process and what assistance might help you.
For those divorces which are straightforward, we can also offer a fixed fee package, to ease the pressure during this difficult time and assist with the management of cost.
To discover more, read our blog: The Benefits of a Fixed Fee Divorce.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers have the biggest team of family lawyers in the UK and can provide you with legal representation anywhere in England and Wales. Call our divorce solicitors on 0800 916 9055 or alternatively contact us online and we’ll be happy to help.
Sarah Jane Lenihan is a family law associate at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.