Are DIY divorces on the rise?

Divorce is never an easy subject to talk about, but the sad fact is that many marriages and Civil Partnerships in the UK end with the couple going their separate ways. In 2013, the Government cut Legal Aid for divorces, (unless domestic abuse was a key reason for the break‐up); today the average cost of a divorce solicitor can range from approximately £700 for a fixed fee non contested divorce, through to thousands of pounds for contested proceedings which can go on for months, if not years.

The court fee for a divorce is currently set at £550 and set to increase to £592 from autumn this year, once statutory instruments have been laid.  The question therefore remaining is:

Is it cheaper to carry out your own DIY divorce, or pay for a costly legal team?

What are DIY divorces?

In England and Wales, it is not necessary to take on a legal team to get divorced. Technically, you can represent yourself, as the documents to begin the divorce proceedings are freely available and can even be downloaded. If both parties are happy to go ahead with a DIY divorce, then all that is payable are the court fees.   Low‐income couples, or those who receive benefits, may not have to pay all or any of the fees depending on their financial circumstances.

Whilst it is possible to go through divorce proceedings without any legal assistance, it is always wise to factor in at least one ‘safety check’ meeting with a family law expert, so that all the implications of the agreements you are making with your ex partner are understood and to ensure that all of the paperwork is in order and legally binding.

Is a DIY divorce legal?

Absolutely, DIY divorces are perfectly legal provided all the paperwork is submitted correctly to the court with the correct court fee.

What you do need to make sure of is that you have taken care of everything, especially any financial commitments which are separate to the divorce proceedings. There is no time limit for making a financial claim against a former partner in England and Wales; however everything must be sorted out properly during the divorce process to prevent any potential problems further down the line. You must obtain a sealed court order, called a Financial Consent Order, setting out exactly what your financial agreements and arrangements are to be.  This legal document will protect both parties going forward in both life and death, preventing any future claims against the other.

Why do people go for a DIY divorce?

Quite simply, the cost! A divorce is, undoubtedly, an expensive process.  If there are arguments or conflicts then the process can drag on for months, if not years with legal costs accumulating. Expect to pay several thousand pounds for a relatively painless and smooth divorce including the resolution of the matrimonial finances, and much more where both parties are acrimonious with one another.

DIY divorces are technically much cheaper, with the only real cost being the statutory court fee. If a couple splits on good terms and there is no dispute over finances*, for example (and especially if there are no children involved), then a DIY divorce may be a quick and financially painless way to do things.*Of course, whilst there may not be any finances to divide it is always best to obtain a clean break Financial Consent Order to protect both parties in the future.

DIY divorces – the pros and cons

The pros:

  • It keeps the costs down – for couples who are struggling financially.
  • It is simple – The required documents are readily available, and the Personal Support Unit at your local family court will be happy to help you check that everything is in order before
  • any court hearing.
  • It is quick if both parties are in complete agreement.
  • You can finalise at your own pace.

The cons:

  • You do not have that essential legal expertise – Family Lawyers know far more about the intricacies of the legal process, including divorce, and may be able to give you that one piece of essential information that makes a divorce go smoothly. They will also be able to make sure that both parties are receiving a fair split of the matrimonial finances, which may include more complex issues such as pensions.
  • It is easy to make a mistake – With legal documents, it’s all about the finer details. A Family Lawyer can check your paperwork over with a fine‐toothed comb to make sure every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘ t’ is crossed before you go to court.
  • Complex divorces are not suitable for DIY solutions – if your divorce is anything other than straight forward then you will need a Family Lawyer to work out solutions that suit both you and your ex‐partner.

If you have children, things may get complicated – DIY divorces are ideal for those who have limited assets to split, and no children. If there are children of the relationship, to ensure they are protected and secure, you will need to consult a Family Lawyer to check details such as child maintenance payments and that arrangements for contact is fair.

Whether you are the applicant/petitioner or the respondent within divorce or dissolution proceedings, our specialist divorce lawyers can help guide you through the entire process and assist with your case in a friendly and professional way.

If your relationship has come to an end and you want to go your separate ways, talk to one of our family law experts today.