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.
- 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 www.courtservice.gov.uk. Remember that the Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to assist with queries and individual advice.