Coverage in recent months about speeding up the divorce process by using fixed fee digital services raises lots of questions about the pros and cons.
The Ministry of Justice announced last year that couples can divorce online – as long as both parties agree – as part of a £1bn change to the justice system.
Whilst the draw of online services is they claim to cut the amount of time and reduce the costs of non-contested divorce, there can be potential pitfalls which are best avoided.
A do-it yourself divorce might look good on paper but it’s always better to instruct a solicitor for the reasons outlined below:
On-going advice & support
Some people may be happy to go it alone but divorce can be one of the most challenging times in someone’s life. It’s important to have support from an experienced professional who can guide you through the process from start to finish. On-going advice and face-to face meetings are key to ensure any complex matters can be thoroughly explored and resolved. If issues aren’t identified at the outset, it’s possible they could be overlooked and this could have a detrimental effect on the overall outcome.
A DIY divorce looks cheap but those exploring this option should remember in many cases it only covers the paperwork. There are additional fees to be paid including the standard court issue fee of £550 which applies whether you instruct a solicitor or not. A divorce can be delayed if the paperwork is not in order or one party has not completed documents correctly. There can be significant delay because of mistakes in the paperwork and real prejudice if something is omitted. Here at Harrogate Family Law, we go to great lengths to ensure documents are drafted right first time and you can have peace of mind that it’s all dealt with correctly on your behalf.
Financial & childcare arrangements
A digital divorce will cover the fees for the paperwork, but they often don’t include the costs of sorting out the financial and childcare arrangements. In our experience, these are the most complex issues that arise in divorce proceedings. Most couples will need a financial order which documents how assets will be split and may also require a childcare arrangement order. It’s quite usual for a divorce not to be concluded until the financial agreements have been finalised into a formal document or court order signed by a judge because divorce can affect pension claims and inheritance rights. It is important that the financial agreement is drawn up by a solicitor to ensure it includes everything necessary and provides the protection needed. This is crucial if you are to avoid a further claim on your finances at a later date.
Experience & legal knowledge
With our considerable legal expertise, we will help you achieve a fair deal and the settlement you deserve. Getting the right advice at the beginning is important and we always aim to keep disputes out of court whenever possible. Negotiating a settlement that works for both parties and therefore reduces costs is better in the long-run for all involved.
Divorce is never easy and, even if uncontested, there can be hidden risks that can arise at any time. A good example is pensions and finding a fair way to divide these. Without proper advice from a solicitor who is looking at the whole picture, it’s easy to see how one party may not end up with their fair share. In some cases, pensions can be as valuable as the family home, so it shouldn’t be overlooked.
Getting the divorce right is much more than just sorting out the paperwork and, as we mentioned earlier, it’s essential to ensure this is correct and in order. Our family solicitors are experienced in dealing with all aspects of divorce and will offer support and legal advice throughout the whole process. We will look at the whole picture and all of the potential pitfalls to help you secure the best outcome for the future.
Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers 2018 (York, Hull and surrounds region) and the Legal 500 2017 (Leeds/West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire region).
He is also the only Resolution accredited specialist solicitor in Harrogate for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.
This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.