what is a “DIY divorce?”
Going through a divorce is a long, tough process. On top of that, it’s also extremely emotional for the spouses involved. The promise of a divorce that is quicker, cheaper and doesn’t require legal help, is certainly an attractive option.
“DIY” divorces are becoming an increasingly popular choice for divorcing spouses. As a “quick” and “cheap” alternative to hiring a solicitor, “DIY” divorces promise efficiency at a seemingly low cost. But when going into a “DIY” divorce, you should be aware of any risks. Despite how attractive a “DIY” divorce may seem, it’s likely that this will end up costing you more in the long run.
will it actually be quicker and cheaper?
On average, the UK’s divorce process can take anywhere between 4-6 months. The latest government figures state that it takes 23 weeks just to get to the Decree Nisi stage of divorce. Whilst there are certain ways that you can “speed up” the progress of your divorce (i.e filling in forms correctly and having good communication with your spouse), the promise of a “quick” divorce is very misleading.
Some “DIY” divorce websites will make claims such as being able to finalise a divorce in 12 weeks. In reality, however, this promise is near impossible. For example, there will always be an obligatory 6 week and 1 day wait between the Decree Nisi granting and the granting of the Decree Absolute.
Regarding the cost, you may see some sites which advertise a “DIY divorce” for £50 or £100. However, no matter how you do your divorce, you will always have to pay a minimum of £550 to the courts. This is the cost of the divorce petition, and cannot be avoided. Any sites which advertise “all forms completed here for £40”, actually mean that you will always have to pay this on top of the £550.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF A “DIY” DIVORCE?
mistakes in divorce forms
Although it’s easy to find all of the relevant divorce forms online, filling in your own divorce petition is not an easy task. The legal implications of making errors in your divorce form can be large and costly.
The court will analyse your reasons for divorce under a microscope (not literally) and so each ground for divorce needs to be correctly justified. For example, “unreasonable behaviour” requires particularly detailed information, and in the case of a “DIY” divorce, people have often used examples or reasons that won’t be upheld in court.
Alternatively, simple issues such as putting down your address incorrectly, or even making a spelling mistake, can lead to your petition being rejected. You may not know that you are making a mistake in your forms. It’s for this reason that using a lawyer is so important; they’ll be able to spot mistakes that you may not have otherwise seen.
Sudden Financial Claims
Sometimes, those applying for a “DIY” divorce fail to make correct financial arrangements, under a false assumption that they’ll be done through the “DIY” divorce process.
For example, if you start a successful business or inherit a large sum of money, your ex may have access to part of it if a sufficient financial order hasn’t been put in place. If you’re doing a “DIY” divorce you may not know that you need a financial order at all.
Missing Out on Entitlements
Involving a lawyer in your divorce is your safety net to ensure you receive everything that you are entitled to.
Even if you and your ex have come to an agreement about how assets and finances should be split, it’s a risk to assume that your partner is disclosing 100% of the necessary information to you.
If you don’t know every detail of your ex’s finances, you could miss out on hidden entitlements such as pension provisions, spouse maintenance or business payments.
the re-marriage trap
If one spouse decides to re-marry after the divorce is finalised, that partner may encounter some issues if the divorce hasn’t been completed properly.
For example, if a sufficient financial order wasn’t properly put in place, then one partner could risk losing any financial claims against the other, in the event of their re-marrying.
Additionally, issues could arise if the divorce process hasn’t been fully completed prior to re-marrying. If one partner believes that the divorce has been finalised prior to receiving the Decree Absolute, that partner could be guilty of bigamy.
The solution is simply to follow the process as guided by the government and by legal professionals.
Whilst we fully understand that finances are difficult for those getting divorced, it will definitely be more cost and time-efficient to have a lawyer review your petition as opposed to going into the process alone.
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