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Wednesday 02 September 2020
by Jackie Emson

The issues with a ‘DIY’ divorce by Aaron & Partners

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On the face of things, completing a divorce online and without legal assistance might appear to be a simple, low-cost exercise, particularly if one were to read the ‘Get a divorce’ section on the government website. However, there are a number of problems that can arise when spouses separate and attempt a ‘DIY’ divorce without the help of a solicitor.

Once divorce proceedings have been issued, the other spouse must respond to the Court within a specified timeframe confirming whether they intend to defend the proceedings. Defended divorce proceedings are rare, but complexities will follow if a spouse does intend to file a defence. Furthermore, if the other spouse does not respond to the Divorce Petition this can also cause complications. Strict legal rules apply in all such situations and they must be complied with before the divorce can progress. Good legal advice will avoid these eventualities happening in the first instance, or assist in resolving them if they do occur.

Where the Divorce Petition is based on adultery or unreasonable behaviour, the Petitioner can make a claim for their divorce costs to be met by their husband/wife (though not the costs of resolving the financial issues). A solicitor will assist in recovering any unpaid costs awarded by the court.

However, the divorce proceedings are merely a part of the process. By only completing an online Divorce Petition, financial matters will remain unresolved, leaving a spouse open to potential future financial claims against them from their “ex”. Spouses may not have substantial assets at present, but any assets – even if acquired or accrued after separation and divorce – are at risk if a “clean break” is not achieved.

An experienced family law solicitor will advise that the parties should agree maintenance and the division of financial assets at the time of divorce. The agreement is then incorporated into a document called a ‘Consent Order’ and approved by the Court to ensure it is legally binding. A solicitor will ensure that the terms of the financial agreement are properly negotiated and drafted.

Lastly, the importance of the timing of the Decree Absolute, being the final stage of the divorce proceedings, can often be overlooked. Inheritance rights and benefits (such as pension entitlements) can be lost if Decree Absolute is made prior to the Court approving a financial Consent Order. An experienced solicitor will advise their client to delay the obtaining of a Decree Absolute until such an Order is made.

There is a common misconception that legal advice for a divorce is unnecessary but there are pitfalls that result from applying for an online divorce. Neglecting to obtain professional legal advice at an early stage can add to the stress of the divorce process and result in delay and considerable financial loss.

Katie Hughes-Beddows is a Family Law Solicitor at Aaron & Partners Solicitors in Shrewsbury and would be happy to assist. Please contact her on 01743 294132 or by email at katie.hughes-beddows@aaronandpartners.com.