In short, yes. Although it is possible for you to complete the divorce paperwork yourself, it is certainly not advisable. You should take family law advice before starting any proceedings because it can have serious consequences for you. Some of the problems you may run into are:
- Rejection of the divorce by the court. If there are any errors in the paperwork, then the divorce will either be rejected and returned to you when the papers are sent off the court to start the process or worse, rejected at the Conditional Order Stage (we discuss this later) and you will have to repeat key stages again.
- Impact on financial settlement. The contents of the divorce documents may affect your financial settlement. Inaccurate and misleading information, or the way in which information is presented in the divorce papers, can mean that you receive a smaller settlement than you should. For example, the separation date mentioned in the papers may be important if assets have recently been sold/gifted) as it may be argued that you should not be able to claim against those assets.
- Controlling the process. It may be important that you are the person asking for the divorce (called the Petitioner) so that you control the process and timescales. This might be very important if remaining married until the financial settlement has been concluded may be favourable to you, such as you being entitled to death in service or pension benefits on your spouse’s death.
- Technical legal reasons. The “prayer” at the last page of the Divorce Petition has very important implications not only for divorce proceedings but financial proceedings. Ensure you seek legal advice early to make sure this is completed to suit your situation to place you in the best position going forward.
- Connections outside England and Wales. Some couples are able to apply for divorce in more than one country. Different countries have different rules on divorce and you may get a better financial settlement by starting proceedings in one country as opposed to another. If you have any connection outside England and Wales, it is essential to consider in which country you should ask for a divorce, and to act fast. If, for example, you or your spouse live or have lived outside England and Wales, have assets outside England and Wales or different citizenship, either of you may be able to start proceedings in more than one country. It’s essential you seek advice and act fast and as this is a complex area of law which can have major financial consequences.
- Getting financial claims dismissed. Your divorce will not bring to an end any financial claims your spouse may have against you. The Final Order does not bring an end to any such claims. You need a court order known as a consent order to stop your ex-spouse making claims for money or property from you in the future. We can help you in getting a consent order.