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Divorce finances: How DIY divorce can backfire

How DIY divorces can backfire

Are you considering a DIY divorce? More and more couples are choosing to compete their divorce online by themselves, a process that was simplified by the introduction of no-fault divorce.

DIY divorce, sometimes called ‘kitchen table divorce’, can seem like a straightforward alternative to involving a lawyer, especially if both parties agree on how to resolve matters and there aren’t many assets to wrangle over.

Making decision about divorce finances

But, it’s not that simple. Divorce involves making long-term, high-stakes decisions; money, children, living arrangements. What happens when your mutually agreed plan reaches the courts and the judge deems your agreement unfair to one party?

Additionally, if you don’t make the financial agreements you reach legally binding via a consent order, then you will remain financially tied to your former-spouse even after separation, which can raise difficulties further down the road.

Understanding the full scope of consequences without expert advice is challenging and if things get complicated not having a lawyer by your side can make it all too easy to reach decisions that will leave you at a disadvantage in the future.

Here, Birmingham-based family lawyer Molly Brindley explains in more detail:

Whilst it is entirely possible to reach an agreement with your ex-spouse without the assistance of a lawyer, it is a common misconception that once an agreement is reached and the divorce is finalised, all financial claims against ex-spouses come to an end.

However, a financial agreement is not legally binding until it is recorded in a consent order and approved by a Judge. At this point, ex-spouses will legally be ‘financially disconnected’ from each other.

Consent orders and DIY divorce

A consent order is a legally binding document drafted by a specialist family solicitor.

When a consent order is filed at court, the parties must also file a Statement of Information (known as a D81 form), which provides the Judge with a snapshot of the parties’ financial circumstances.

The Judge then cross-references this document against the consent order, to determine whether the agreement reached is fair for both parties.

When a judge might reject a divorce agreement

It’s important to know that although you and your ex may be happy with the agreement you came to, when it reaches court, the Judge can refuse to make an order in the agreed terms. For example, if:

  • The judge feels that the agreement is unfair for either party – for example, if it does not meet needs of all involved, or the division of assets is too far in one parties’ favour without good reason.
  • Or, the judge does not have enough information about each party’s financial circumstances.

This is becoming even more apparent in light of the current economic climate, with fewer people able to finance two homes after separation.

What happens next?

To resolve matters, the court can:

  • Request further information to clarify the situation
  • Seek reassurance that each party remains happy with the agreement
  • Request that the order is amended
  • Refuse to make the order in it’s entirety.

Whilst it is rare that the court will refuse an order, it is possible. A more likely solution is that the court would work with the parties to amend the order, so that they are fully satisfied that the result will be fair.

Judge’s are often more likely to approve a consent order when they are satisfied that both parties have received legal advice and are making informed decisions.

Alternatives to DIY divorce

Many people choose DIY divorce to minimise intervention in their otherwise amicable divorce. However, working with a divorce lawyer doesn’t mean that you’ve failed at negotiations yourself, nor will it increase tension in your divorce. In fact, with the support of a family lawyer, you can ensure that both you and your partner can comfortably move forward with certainty.

Useful links

Can I afford to divorce my partner?

The financial risk of DIY divorce

What happens to the family home when I get divorced?

Divorce and financial settlement FAQs

Guide – What is a financial settlement?

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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As the UK's largest family law firm we understand that every case is personal.

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