The first day back at work after Christmas and New Year is known as ‘D-Day’ amongst lawyers. It is the time when warring couples are most likely to instigate divorce proceedings – more are started in January than in any other month. With legal aid all but having disappeared, except where domestic violence can be proved, some couples may be tempted to go down the ‘DIY’ divorce route to avoid legal fees. Here Helen Bradin, Partner at solicitors Bradin Trubshaw & Kirwan LLP, explains the potential pitfalls of managing your own divorce:

A quickie divorce? Sounds very tempting. The Internet and media are crammed with such offers. But what they may not tell you is that if you own a property, have assets – including pensions – or are facing problems with arrangements for children, then this is not the way to go.

‘DIY’ Divorce – What it Means

A ‘DIY’ divorce is where partners go through the divorce or dissolution process with little or no help from a solicitor. Anyone can do it. So if you and your partner have no children, no financial assets, are communicating amicably and the divorce is uncontested, then it may work. But life is rarely that simple. Which is why in most situations there are hidden pitfalls – children to consider, a non-amicable separation, a home, pensions and shared finances.

The True Cost

Everything has a cost and what may initially appear to be a cheap divorce option may not end up being such a small price to pay after all. To start with there is the matter of a £410 Court fee and £50 Decree Absolute or Final Order fee to pay on top of the initial ‘quickie’ charge.

‘DIY’ divorces can also create more problems than they solve. Unregulated, you are not protected so you may find yourself in a legal minefield. Common problems include incorrectly completed petitions; one party not being prepared to admit to their adultery; in the case of two years separation one party refusing to consent; the respondent failing to respond to the petition or the respondent raising objections to the petition or Child Arrangements.

Filing divorce papers is an arduous task and it is important to ensure the correct completion of any required additional documentation. Incorrectly filed papers or documentation will be rejected by the Court causing delays and further cost. Moreover, couples choosing the DIY route are likely to encounter challenges and decisions that they have never thought about – such as dividing pensions – and without professional support may find that the whole process collapses and fails to progress.

The Stress Factor

Managing your own divorce proceedings can be highly emotional as it is very difficult to remain objective and dispassionate. You may think that you have agreed how you intend to apportion your matrimonial assets but it is risky to assume that your ex will honour their word. Verbal agreements will not hold up in Court so, for example, if financial matters are not finalised through the Court, you may find that your ex pursues you, for say a share of an inheritance. Moreover, as witnessed in recent high profile cases where the Supreme Court ruled that two divorce settlements should be reopened, this can happen even years later. That is why it is vital to secure any agreement in a properly drawn up legal document or Court Order.

Professional Advice

A divorce brings a legal end to a marriage but does not automatically end all financial obligations or legal arrangements for your children. Relationship break-ups are difficult and each is unique so by instructing an impartial solicitor you can secure a fair agreement to give you peace of mind for the future, something which a ‘one size fits all’ DIY divorce may not deliver.

For advice on family and other legal matters contact Bradin Trubshaw & Kirwan LLP on 01543 888275 for a consultation or email hcb@btksolicitors.com