Some people might think it self-serving for a lawyer to say that a DIY divorce can be dangerous. However, having helped many clients who have encountered difficulties when representing themselves, this has led me to conclude that legal assistance in divorce proceedings is often a necessity.
Whilst actually getting divorced can be relatively simple, there are a number of common problems that arise within divorce proceedings which are not straightforward and where you will need specialist advice. Examples are:-
- The petition is incomplete or incorrectly completed.
- The respondent and/or Co-Respondent are not prepared to admit their adultery, or alternatively in the case of two years separation the Respondent is not prepared to give their consent.
- The respondent lives abroad and they dispute the court’s power to deal with the divorce proceedings.
- The respondent fails to respond to the petition and the proceedings stall.
- The Respondent files their own cross Petition or raises a number of objections to matters contained within your Petition or Statement of Arrangements for Children.
A family solicitor can help to resolve these issues and in many cases prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Whilst the divorce might proceed smoothly, many people wrongly believe that once they have Decree Absolute (being the decree that brings a marriage to an end) their ex cannot bring any further claims against them.
Whilst Decree Absolute does dismiss some claims, spouses and former spouses will continue to have the right to make most financial claims against one another by applying to the Court for various Orders. Rights can only be brought to an end in one of two ways. The first is by a Court Order. The second is where someone obtains a divorce and then remarries. However, the unmarried ex-spouse can still claim against the newly married spouse.
It may be the case that neither you nor your former spouse want to make a claim against one another, or you have already resolved financial matters. There is no guarantee that your relationship with your former spouse will continue to be amicable over the years. The best advice for anyone contemplating divorce is to ensure that they resolve financial matters prior to obtaining Decree Absolute.
A solicitor will be able to advise you as to the type of financial settlement you would receive. Alternatively, if you have reached agreement, the solicitor can simply draft the paperwork to ensure that that agreement is reflected whilst dismissing your claims against one another at the same time.
A preconception people have is that if they go to see a family lawyer they are simply going to run up huge costs or make matters worse. A good lawyer will listen to what you want and provide you with both practical and legal advice, but ultimately they will act upon your instructions.
The above highlights some of the difficulties that may be encountered but not necessarily foreseen at the outset of a matter and also illustrates why your family lawyer could prove invaluable to you whilst avoiding the pitfalls of a DIY divorce.