DIY Divorce: the Pros and Cons

Divorce|July 16th 2013

DIY divorce is in the headlines this week, following the news that Charles Saatchi has opted to represent himself in his divorce from Nigella Lawson.

A statement issued on behalf of Lawson and Saatchi stated: “Following the separation of Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi there has been much inaccurate speculation in the press over the weekend.

“Contrary to some reports, Charles Saatchi has not consulted lawyers and has represented himself throughout. Both parties would appreciate privacy for themselves and their children at this difficult time.”

I take a look at DIY divorce in my book, Divorce & Splitting Up: Advice From a Top Divorce Lawyer. It certainly has its place – but I would argue that for the unwary, there are potential pitfalls. DIY divorce is cheap on paper – but it can prove to be expensive in the long run, if you settle for less than you are worth.


DIY Divorce


  • Straightforward and cost-effective. A couple with no financial problems, who are in agreement, can certainly obtain a divorce without the assistance of a solicitor.  They can go along to court, or obtain the forms online and get going.
  • It is possible to instruct a lawyer for “hand-holding”, to reduce costs. Consult a solicitor only when you need to do so, and do the rest of the work yourself. This will work out much cheaper but you will still have professional support if you need it.



  • If you take no legal advice at all, gaping financial pitfalls can result. You are entitled to agree to demands that place you at a financial disadvantage – but you may come to regret these down the line. Or you may agree to demands only to discover, sometime later, that you were “bilked” of your rights and entitlements. For these reasons, again, legal advice is recommended.
  • The form-filling and legalese are not for everyone. Doing your own divorce has been compared to doing the conveyancing for your own house.

If you choose this method, you can obtain forms from your local county court. Alternatively you can download them from Remember that the Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to assist with queries and individual advice.

Author: Stowe Family Law


  1. SE says:

    My daughter 40yrs old is getting divorced. She had a high flying job at Deloite and Touche for 10 years which she gave up to have her three boys 10, 8 and 6. After the boys were born they had a nanny for several years until the youngest was old enough to go to nursery. In that time she worked as the Marketing director in their accountancy business.
    Since the youngest was born her husband has mentally abused her saying her side of the business is not bringing in enough money. She now sleeps in the converted garage and he has folded their original company.Now he has smashed her phone, told her she must pay for the company car if she wants to keep it and has taken the’company’ computer.
    My daughter is so abused that she will not contest the divorce, has agreed that the boys should live with her husband in their jointly owned house which is worth about £300,000 because their is no equity in the house and she does not want the boys life to be disrupted, She says she can’t support them and if she did take any money then the boys would suffer.
    I can’t believe that she is not entitled to more financial support from her husband whose firm now averages £100, 000 per year and seems to have money to run a Series 7 BMW and is off to the Hungarian Grand Prix. I can’t get through to my daughter that she will regret at leisure the loss of her boys and not ensuring she is financially secure.
    She will not even discuss her decision. What can I do to change her mind? She says Citizens Advice say there is nothing she can do but I don’t think they have the expertise to advise her correctly.

  2. Liz says:

    I need help and don’t know where to turn .
    My husband left me 4 years ago
    Out of the blue . I was financially dependent on him as I gave up work to look after our two children.
    When he left, he walked out on everything all responsibilities. I was left with £20 in s bank account with no other income due to come in .
    As the first few months went by I became mentally / emotionally Unstable.
    To then find out during this time that we were in debt , the mortgage, household bills and school fees hadn’t been Paid for months.
    One of my children had no school for a term ( I managed to fight to get him on to a school ( not sure where my strength came from at that point ))
    I eventually managed to work 3 days a week to bring in a little money to try and gey self sorted .
    Eventually I avoided losing the family home we were I by selling it at the very last minute.
    The money from the house is now with the conveyancer , until the Finacial settlement has been agreed.
    I have tried using a solicitor that agreed to accept a monthly standing order of £50 per month. But now the balance has reached £1000 theywant to up the monthly payment ( which I cannot afford )
    So they won’t continue .
    The judge that delt with postponing the repossession order suggested I find another solicitor who will take on the case that will accept payment at the end of the case .
    I found an excellent solicitor who said my only option was to apply for a company that would pay the monthly fee to the solicitor and take the final fee from the pot at the end .
    But sadly it was declined as my outgoings were more than my incoming balance and I couldn’t afford to pay the monthly admin fee required .

    I am stuck in a hole!!!!
    Everyone seems happy to take on the case and seems to think I stand a chance of settling for what is required but I cannot settle this with out paying a monthly fee and I’m currently unable to pay anything out ( I’m off sick due to losing sight in one eye , which is apparently due to shock / stress )
    I need closure in my life I need to move on
    I am living with parents with one of my children ( which isn’t easy )
    My ex is currently living a very comfortable life with out this money .
    He is renting an apartment with his partner
    Just got back from his 4th holiday this year.
    Some one has mentioned a DIY divorce. / settlement . I have no understanding of the law or what I am entitled to and I think I’m probably not strong enough mentally to fight .
    The information above is very brief and it has been extremely traumatic few years faced with many shocks and unexpected surprises .
    Please please someone guide me where togo or what to do next .
    I really am at the end . My fight is for the sake of my children or I would seriously consider giving in to him and letting him have it all .

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