Divorce solicitor Lisa Bell talks about DIY Divorce and “Quickie Divorce” online – the risks and pitfalls to avoid
If you and your spouse decide to end your marriage and have agreed how your financial assets are to be divided between you, then it is possible to sort out a divorce relatively quickly and cheaply. There is no way to avoid going through the legal process of divorce to ensure your marriage is dissolved, but if you feel confident enough you may decide to do this yourself rather than instructing a solicitor to help you.
How much does it cost?
If you choose to conduct the divorce process yourself that is entirely your prerogative. Remember however that court applications and proceedings can be daunting, even if you are familiar with completing forms. Before you take steps to issue divorce proceedings in order to end your marriage, you must be aware of the formal procedure which must be followed strictly to ensure no issues arise when filing the required documentation with the court.
Also, you must be prepared to file the correct fee with the court. At present, the fee is £550 unless you qualify for a fee remission or fee exemption, in which case you will need to complete the appropriate form and file this with the court at the same time as your signed divorce petition. This will enable the court to assess your eligibility to either not need to pay the court fee or only pay a contribution towards it.
That sounds easy, so why should I use a solicitor?
Most people are not aware that the formal divorce procedure only legally ends the marriage bond created between you and your spouse; it does not end the financial bond created between you when you got married.
If you only pursue divorce and do not obtain an Order setting out what you have agreed about dividing your finances, you will be divorced from your spouse but still financially bound to them. This means that all financial claims available as a result of your marriage will remain available, even after you are legally divorced. Either of you will be able to claim against the other’s assets, income and pensions at any point in the future, whether you are both alive or even if one of you dies.
A family solicitor will be able to advise you on all of your available claims and whether your settlement is fair, navigate through the process for you, enter into negotiations with your ex-spouse if necessary and ensure that you finalise everything so that there are no issues in the future and you can move on.
How is an online divorce company different?
Obtaining a ‘quickie divorce’ online may sound enticing, but it is crucial that you check what is included in the package before you start the process. Most companies offering ‘quickie divorces’ will only help you complete the divorce paperwork and will not assist or provide any advice on reaching a financial settlement.
Is it quicker to use the online divorce?
Generally, no. If you are happy to conduct a do-it-yourself divorce, whether this is by filling out the forms yourself or using an online ‘quickie divorce’ website, the legal process will be the same as it is if you use a solicitor to help you.
In reality, even the quickest divorce can take between 4-6 months to finalise. The procedure itself imposes strict timescales that are unavoidable e.g. you must wait six weeks and one day between obtaining Decree Nisi and applying for Decree Absolute.
Most of the difficulties and delays in divorce occur when trying to divide the family finances. This is because it is usually not advisable to apply for Decree Absolute (the order which will dissolve your marriage) until you have secured a court order setting out the terms of your financial settlement.
How do you agree to divide the finances on divorce?
The best and certainly the cheapest way to achieve settlement is to negotiate with your spouse directly in the hope an agreement can be reached. If you do reach agreement, it is helpful to have at least one meeting with a specialist family solicitor to discuss the financial agreement reached. Legal advice regarding the financial claims available to you will mean you are able to determine whether the financial settlement discussed between you and your spouse is fair, reasonable or in your best interests. It will also tell you whether you have made all claims available to you as a result of your marriage.
If you decide after meeting with a specialist family law solicitor that you are still happy to proceed with the agreement reached between you and your spouse, then your solicitor will be able to draft an order or at least consider a draft financial consent order which legally records the terms of your financial settlement, before you sign it. You might decide that after obtaining advice that the agreement reached between you and your spouse is not in your best interests. A solicitor will be able to assist you in negotiating with your spouse or you will be able to propose an alternative for settlement in the hope you can agree arrangements between yourselves.
What happens when you have agreed the finances on divorce?
It is crucial after agreeing financial settlement with your spouse that you have this formalised by the court. A financial consent order is a legally binding court order setting out what the financial arrangements are. It is absolutely essential that you have a financial consent order, even if it simply confirms that neither of you want to make a claim against the income, assets or pensions of the other. Bear in mind that a quickie divorce will not normally include this option.
As explained above, getting a divorce does not end the ability for either party to make a financial claim against the other and there is no time limit for making a financial claim. Without a financial consent order, you might obtain a divorce now but then in 1 year, 10 years or 25 years’ time etc your ex-spouse could make a claim against your financial assets, even if your financial situation has changed significantly. There are risks that your ex-spouse may then receive a larger claim against your financial assets than they would have done if you had resolved the financial settlement at the same time as your divorce.
Contact us for professional advice you can trust
If you are considering divorce, whether you have thought about ‘quickie divorce’ or have already issued divorce proceedings, speak to our specialist family team for advice regarding the divorce process, financial settlement or the options available to you.