The DIY Divorce trend

The word divorce is highly emotive.  It can conjure up images of rowing couples, tearful encounters, acrimonious court battles, Judges’ wigs and angry lawyers shouting ‘objection’ across a court room.  The reality of a divorce can be quite different.  In fact, perhaps surprisingly, many divorces these days are  amicable.  At the very least parties are usually in agreement that divorce is inevitable and very few divorces are ever defended.

Arising out of this, we have witnessed a shift in people’s’ needs relating to a divorce.  Of course, some clients want and need the reassurance of an expert to guide them through every aspect of the process and handle this for them.  They like the distance that is created between them and their partner when dealing with things like finances and child care arrangements.  However, there are some clients for whom this level of involvement from solicitor is unnecessary.  For them, a DIY divorce can be the perfect solution.

 So what does this involve and how does it work?

In order to get a divorce you must have been married for 1 year.  One party needs to be resident in England and Wales in order to apply for a divorce.  Further you must have a valid reason for a divorce.  These are:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • 2 years’ separation with consent
  • 5 years’ separation

There must be no hope of salvaging the marriage.

If you can comply with the above criteria, a D8 Divorce Petition must be completed confirming the above information.  This form can be obtained online or from the Court.

Once completed, the Divorce Petition needs to be lodged at Court with the relevant fee (currently £550) and your marriage certificate.

A Judge will review the divorce  Petition and (assuming both parties agree to the divorce) check for the following:

  • The Petition is completed correctly;
  • That the law has been complied with;
  • That the Family Proceedings Rules have been complied with.

If  the above is in order, the Judge will grant a Decree Nisi.  This is, in essence, an interim divorce certificate.  It confirms an entitlement to a divorce after a mandatory 6 week cooling off period (in case the parties change their minds – which can and does happen!).

After 6 weeks, the parties can apply for a Decree Absolute.  That will officially dissolve the marriage.

 So what is our view of the DIY divorce?

The above sounds like a simple process and to a certain extent, we do praise the birth of the DIY divorce.  In the past (particularly during the recent recession and shortly thereafter), couples have been almost forced to stay together due to the costs of engaging a lawyer to deal with their divorce.   Certainly, anecdotally we had clients who could not divorce or sell their property due to the precarious nature of their joint finances and fear of the costs involved.   Clearly this is not a healthy position for either individual.  A lower cost and simplified divorce has made it a more viable option for these couple who can then go their separate ways and get on with their lives.

However, a DIY divorce must be approached with a degree of caution.  Like any legal process there are guidelines and timelines to be adhered to.  Remember, the rules and procedures are written by lawyers for lawyers.

The drafting of a divorce petition requires care and attention.  A Judge will only grant a Decree Nisi if completed correctly to the letter of the law.  If not, directions will be issued which could not only delay the divorce but could result in additional Court fees for amendments.

Use of emotive language, finger pointing and blaming or an overly aggressive approach in a Divorce Petition can only serve to anger the other party.  Your amicable divorce may then not be as amicable as you set out to be.  This could also then have a detrimental effect on other aspects of the divorce process such as children and finances.

Further, miss a court deadline and the consequences could be disastrous.!

Lawyers are experienced in drafting divorce papers to achieve the desired result but also in maintaining the communication channels to assist the reminder of the process.  Further, the standard divorce process is not necessarily the acrimonious court room battle that it perhaps once was (or perceived to be).  Many divorces are dealt with ‘on paper’ without the parties ever even entering a Court room.

An approach that we prefer is to help clients on a flexible basis, being upfront about costs and assessing carefully the needs of our clients on a case by case basis.  By taking this approach we can ensure that we understand our clients’ requirements and desired outcome as well as the level of involvement (or not) that they want from us.

We offer a fixed fee divorce so that clients are clear on costs right at the start of the process.  We also offer flexible finance packages to help clients budget accordingly for the legal fees of a divorce.  Our experience is that clients find this approach refreshing and helps to ease the worry about how they will finance their divorce.

Further, we are Resolution accredited lawyers.  This means that we follow a strict Code of Practice set down by Resolution and agree to deal with family law matters in a constructive and conciliatory manner, taking in to account the best interests of all parties concerned, particularly the interests of children.   For a more detailed look at the Resolution Code of Practice that we follow, click here

By adopting this approach, we can help clients achieve the right outcome for them and their families, helping all parties to move on with their lives in due course.

For more information about our approach to the divorce process or any aspect of family law, please see our website http://www.sherreysolicitors.com/ or call us on Worcester 01905 349217 or Wolverhampton 01902 302969