The rise in DIY divorce
Divorce Day, the first working Monday of the year, is traditionally the start of a period where family lawyers see a surge in divorce enquiries, as couples emerge from the Christmas break and normality resumes.
However, it’s predicted that this year will be different as couples who have decided to separate question they can afford to divorce and live independently in the deepening cost of living crisis.
But do the benefits of divorcing without legal advice outweigh the potential pitfalls?
What is a DIY Divorce?
A DIY divorce, often known as a ‘kitchen table divorce’, is one in which the couple agree the terms of their divorce between themselves, before drafting and filing their divorce application without the help of a divorce lawyer.
How the cost-of-living crisis has impacted divorcing couples
The rise in DIY divorce has been accelerated by the cost-of-living crisis. At a time when ex-partners will be facing the inescapable cost of creating two homes from one, couples seek to resolve their divorce without incurring legal fees.
In a recent survey, over 70% of people said they would consider a DIY divorce.
While, almost 60% of people said the cost-of-living crisis is causing friction in your romantic relationship, as they struggle to meet rising costs.
Top reasons cited were saving money and keeping the divorce as amicable as possible.
DIY no-fault divorce
The welcome introduction of no-fault divorce in April 2022 means that couples are no longer legally required to assign blame to one party for causing the breakdown of the marriage.
Now, couples can simply state that the marriage has irretrievably broken down irrespective of the reason, significantly reducing conflict in the early stages of separation.
This allows couples to focus on discussing the future, not dwelling on the past.
When conflict in unavoidable
Separating amicably has many benefits for you and your family; in easing the stress of the divorce process, helping to reduce costs, and in preserving good feeling between you and your ex-partner for you to forge a new relationship after separation.
But for many couples, divorce without conflict is simply not possible. In complicated, abusive or acrimonious divorces, choosing to move ahead without legal support can leave some vulnerable and at risk of achieving an unfair outcome.
The pitfalls of DIY divorce
Potential errors in DIY divorce forms
Whilst the paperwork to apply for divorce is easily found online, it is not always simple to complete. Legal implications vary depending on individual circumstances of each couple, and completing the application without legal advice could leave some couples unaware of their legal position.
Financial claims and DIY divorce
The divorce process does not resolve finances. To legally separate yours and your ex-partner’s finances you must reach a financial agreement. Within the legally binding agreement you can resolve any financial issues, agree how to separate assets, and ensure financial protection by avoiding future financial claims by your ex-partner.
For example, without a final financial settlement your ex- partner could:
- Apply in the future for payment of a lump sum or transfer or sale of a property.
- Apply for provision from any pensions, amongst other claims.
This could happen if one party’s financial situation improves in the future. For example, if you receive inheritance, win the lottery, start a successful business venture, or you come into money in any other way, without a financial agreement your ex-partner could still make a financial claim against you.
Examples of financial claims made against ex-spouses who haven’t reached a financial agreement include applying for a lump sum, property adjustment, or applying for a spousal maintenance order.
For many, the initial cost savings of a DIY divorce are negated by the future costs of not resolving marital finances formally. Professional legal advice when undertaking DIY divorce papers is extremely important.
The remarriage trap
If you remarry and you do not have a financial agreement in place from your previous divorce, then you will be no longer be able to make financial claims against your ex-spouse, even if these claims would have reasonable within the divorce settlement.
Meanwhile, if your ex-spouse does not remarry, without a financial settlement they can still make future claims against you.
This is known as the ‘remarriage trap’ and can be financially devastating for some.
We recommend seeking advice from a specialist divorce lawyer who can explain the risks and advise on the best way to take to protect yourself.
The need for legal advice when doing a DIY divorce in England
Understandably cost is a consideration when instructing a solicitor to handle your divorce, and DIY divorce can save initial costs. However, clear legal advice and support from a family lawyer can help you to avoid mistakes that may cause unnecessary delays or stress.
Whether you have assets to divide or otherwise, consider the potential for financial claims against you. Taking professional advice now will ensure that you reach a financial settlement that meets your needs today, with no unwelcome surprises in the future.
Get in touch
If you’d like to talk with a family lawyer about divorce please do get in touch with our Client Care Team using the details below, or make an online enquiry.