Is online divorce really cheaper than a solicitor?

Recent coverage 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.  We explain below some important reasons that highlight why it is important to have a specialist family lawyer on your side:

Ongoing advice and 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. Ongoing 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.

Paperwork

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 has not been completed 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 and childcare arrangements

A digital divorce will cover the fees for the paperwork, but it doesn’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. All couples will need a financial order which documents how assets will be split.  Even if you have no assets, a financial order is needed to make sure your spouse cannot try to claim any money from in in the future.  You may also require a child arrangements 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 assets at a later date.

Experience and 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.  They are incredibly complex and can be valued and divided, in many different ways. Without proper advice from a solicitor who is looking at the whole picture, one party may not end up with their fair share even if it might look fair on paper using a wrong valuation for pensions, or not being aware of the best way to divide them can cost you tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds. In some cases, pensions can be as valuable as the family home, so they 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.  Call us today on 01423 594680.

Andrew Meehan is an experienced family lawyer specialising in complex divorces involving significant or hidden assets, as well as cases involving children.

He is recommended for family law by both Chambers 2019 (York, Hull and surrounding regions) and the Legal 500 2018 (Leeds/West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire region).

Everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be replied upon.  If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk.