7 minute read

5 things you need to know before trying a ‘DIY Divorce’

Questions I often get asked are: Can I represent myself in divorce proceedings? Is the online DIY Divorce route worthwhile looking in to?

The answer is yes, some people do go ahead with these options; yet my advice each time is, beware! Cuts to legal aid have meant that more and more people who are considering a divorce are issuing proceedings to try and save money. Yet those who go through divorce without legal advice often become unstuck. It is important to instruct a solicitor who is also a divorce specialist to cover common trip hazards to avoid, making sure they are taking care of your future as well.

This article gives an overview of five key points to help you decide whether a DIY divorce is the best way forward for you.

5 things you need to know

  1. Many DIY / online services only offer help with the paperwork, without providing legal advice. This cheap option is not necessarily the right choice. The Law Gazette reports that four in ten divorce petitions are flawed. They have to be returned due to errors in procedure, lack of information and failure to enclose issue fees.

I believe the benefits of using a reputable family solicitor far outweigh the potential cost savings of trying to handle the divorce yourself. You might be thinking, ‘Any solicitor would say that.’

I genuinely believe that this option is the best use of your time, and in the long run, your money!

2. Those who choose a DIY divorce often believe that matters have concluded once the Decree Absolute has been pronounced. This is a real concern. People are often unaware of the importance of obtaining a Financial Order.

Briefly, if there is no specific Court Order to deal with financial matters, the door is always open at any time in the future for either spouse try and claim money, house, pension, interest in a business – even if you are already divorced!

I do not charge anything to have an initial discussion with people thinking about a divorce or separation as it is important to talk through possible options. From there, the process can be more affordable than you might have  first thought.   

3. DIY divorces do not allow someone to receive proper legal advice. This could result in a financial agreement which does not cover everything it should. People can end up returning to court to renegotiate the settlement which costs them even more money to put right earlier mistakes which could have been avoided.

One common problem is finding a fair way to divide pensions, so that partners who have given up work to look after children don’t lose out. Without advice, it is all too easy to see how one party may end up without their fair share.

4. Filling out your own Divorce Petition without seeking legal advice can often lead to unintended errors. At worst, mistakes can be very detrimental to one party in the long term. At the least, a simple error can postpone a divorce in an unhappy marriage by months.

5. Complex legal terminology can trip people up. An experienced family or matrimonial solicitor can explain terms used during the divorce process eg, prayer of divorce. Clients often struggle as soon as they start thinking about a divorce; something I completely understand, given how complex it can be and how important it is to make the right decisions.

With almost a decade of experience in this field, I can say that the most serious drawback is not realising the meaning or importance of certain elements of divorce or separation. The best outcome all round is reaching an amicable solution, and I take great pride in minimising the long term effect on a client after their divorce is settled.

If you are thinking of a divorce or separation, before considering a DIY Divorce please call me or email me.

Jennifer Carr is one of our experienced family law solicitors. While she is a divorce solicitor in Liverpool, Jennifer often visits clients in Chester and across the North West.

Contact Jennifer for a free, no obligation conversation about your situation to see how I can help.