The Government’s changes to legal funding in 2013 means that legal aid for divorcing couples is now near enough non-existent – except in cases involving domestic abuse.
And as a significant proportion of the 120,000 divorcees in England and Wales are doing so amicably, increasing numbers of people are keeping the costs of their permanent separation down with a DIY divorce.
What is a DIY divorce?
In English and Welsh law, married couples don’t have to instruct a solicitor in order to get divorced.
A DIY divorce effectively enables both parties to represent themselves. Couples can obtain the necessary documents to begin the process, complete the relevant forms and then process the divorce through the courts. The court charges a petition fee of £410 however those in receipt of benefits or on a low income may be exempt from all or part of the court fee. Is DIY divorce a good idea? It can be, but it depends on your situation. Here I take a look at the pros and cons of DIY divorces. The Pros
Keeping costs down While some divorces can cost each party many thousands of pounds, DIY divorces can be completed for less than £500. By cutting out the need for solicitors and other professional advisors, a DIY divorce keeps costs to an absolute minimum. In the current economy, with many separated couples struggling financially, it should go without saying that the prospect of a low-cost divorce is a tempting one. Offering simplicity To many people, the divorce process is daunting and confusing. As part of the DIY divorce package, the two parties are provided with all the information and documentation they need to explain and simplify the divorce process. That’s not to say that there aren’t a plethora of documents to plough through that many people will find overwhelming, but it can be done. What’s more, the PSU (Personal Support Unit) are usually on hand at the court to help you complete your petition – although they can’t offer any legal advice. If the two spouses agree on how best to split assets (if there are any substantial assets) then it can be a simple process, however any agreement reached in respect of the marital assets should be recorded and where appropriate a clean break obtained, you will need a solicitor to prepare this, fees vary but in many cases you are well advised to do so to protect yourself from any future claims against your assets, even years after the divorce has been completed. Proceeding at your own pace The process allows you to finalise your divorce documentation at a timescale that suits you – whether that’s over a period of months or weeks. There’s no waiting around to get professional advice, and the only part of the process over which you do not have control is when the court deals with it – although it’s highly important to spend serious hours poring over every last detail. The Cons
There’s no legal expertise Many people baulk at the seemingly-expensive fees that family law solicitors command. But the old saying is true – you do get what you pay for. Seeking the help and expertise of a knowledgeable solicitor can be worth the money as it can help you understand issues you previously wouldn’t have thought about. For instance, if you’d decided to divide specific assets, a legal expert will let you know if the split is as fair as you think it is, or if there’s a better solution that helps both parties. You can get it wrong Also, without specialist legal advice you can get things wrong and this can delay matters and or increase costs or you may not know about it until you’re many years down the line. Divorces are a very permanent process and it can be very hard, and highly costly, to undo any mistakes that are made. They’re only for simple situations Even when the split is amicable, it can be tough to find a solution that suits both parties. When children, mortgages and retirement plans are in the process of being divided, it’s recommended to proceed with specialist legal advice. Otherwise both parties could regret it further down the line. DIY divorces should only be an option when two partners have little to no assets and are completely agreed on every aspect of the divorce. Sadly, this isn’t usually the case. Considering a DIY divorce? If you’re divorcing amicably with no assets or children, DIY divorces can be a simple, relatively stress free solution at a difficult period of your life. At Howells, we offer a DIY divorce pack which comes with all of the documentation you need to be guided through the divorce process. Find out more online today. Or if your divorce is slightly more complicated, it’s recommended to get some legal advice from people that you trust. If you’re looking for legal expertise about your split, we’re here to help. Visit our specialist divorce page.