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  • Tracey O' Dwyer

DIY Divorce? Do I need a solicitor?

I am often asked - can I do the divorce myself?

The answer to this is YES. In fact the great majority of my clients do deal with the divorce themselves. Please do be aware that this is talking about the divorce itself, and it always remains my advice to seek qualified advice in relation to financial matters, even if you have no assets right now (see below).

Since April 2022 England and Wales has had a no fault divorce system, and it has certainly simplified the process. Gone are the days of having to cite facts to support the divorce such as adultery, unreasonable behaviour or requisite periods of separation. You must have been married for at least a year, and the marriage must have irretrievably broken down.

It is sufficient for the court if only one of you believes that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The other party cannot defend on the grounds that the marriage has not irretrievably broken down.

Most people apply on-line now, and that process will walk you through completing all the boxes. The government website to start the process can be found here

The thing to be aware of is that it is really important not to make a mistake on the application - ensure the date of marriage is correct, spelling of names, etc, because it can cause delays to try to remedy such issues later.

Dealing with the divorce yourself will save lawyer fees in doing so. This can be really helpful as resources are finite and you might well have less money than you did before your marriage broke down. There will still be a court fee for the divorce, unless you are exempt on income grounds. Some people still prefer a lawyer to do this for them, and I can assist on a fixed fee basis subject to criteria.

HOWEVER, where I do not suggest you deal with matters yourself is on the financial aspects of the divorce. It is essential to note that being divorced does not end financial claims. Only a financial order will do so, and this is a separate action.

Even where you and your husband or wife have no assets right now, if claims are not formally dismissed, you could face claims in the future. It will not be a happy situation if you get to retirement and your ex pops up with a claim to your pension, or has realised you have had an inheritance and wants a cut of it. I have dealt with exactly such cases, where people have faced claims many years after the marriage was dissolved, and had no idea that this could happen. I am seeing increasing numbers of these, which seems to be because as DIY divorce becomes more common, some people do not seek qualified advice at all.

So yes, by all means, do save money if you are happy to complete the divorce paperwork yourself. BUT please do not miss out the important step of reaching a binding financial agreement which your lawyer can then submit to a court to be approved. If everything is done by consent, you will usually not even need to attend court, but you will have peace of mind for the future that what's yours is yours.

If you'd like to speak further about this, please do get in touch.

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