As a family lawyer one question I have been asked many times over the years is ‘can I deal with the divorce proceedings myself?’
The answer to this question is of course yes.
Anyone who has sufficient time, a brief background of the process and an ability to complete forms accurately could complete their own divorce petition and lodge the proceedings with the court.
However, this is not as simple a process as many people make out.
I have found through years of practice that I have very often been contacted by parties who have issued divorce proceedings only to find them rejected by the court due to some error being made on the paperwork and then not having a clue how to deal with matters thereafter.
At Woolley & Co our lawyers collectively have over 340 years’ worth of experience, which means we can offer a fixed price for the work to complete all the divorce paperwork meaning clients know exactly what they would pay through to Decree Absolute if the divorce itself is not defended.
Getting divorce paperwork right first time
What parties fail to realise is that the courts very strict in relation to how the paperwork is completed.
If there is an error in relation to what is detailed on the marriage certificate or if there is an error or insufficient detail in relation to what the particulars are regarding the reason why the marriage has broken down then the court can simply reject the divorce petition.
A District Judge must consider the petition and if it is considered that the grounds for divorce noted within that petition are insufficient then the petition can be thrown back and rejected in its entirety.
Just to make matters worse, the latest development has been a complete change in the format and lay out of the divorce petition itself. It is safe to say that none of us like change but change has to happen.
The latest version of the divorce forms are designed to enable people to be able to issue those proceedings themselves and effectively simplify the process.
However, the basic details and the basic information that is required for the Judge to consider whether a marriage has irretrievably broken down is exactly the same.
Whilst the forms may appear to be somewhat simpler they are still complicated in as much as they request a lot of detail and need to be completed in the way expected by the court if the court is to allow the process to progress.
Dealing with financial claims in the divorce process
As well as justifying a reason for the breakdown of the marriage which must be proven in every divorce case it is also necessary within the divorce petition to put forward all your initial financial claims within the marriage.
Whilst this is separate process from a legal perspective it is inextricably linked to the divorce itself.
The question is therefore if you do not include all your financial claims at the outset what difficulties may this pose for you later in proceedings?
DIY divorce could be a false economy
We are all short of time in what is a busy world and we are all looking to cut costs wherever possible to make life easier.
Whether the new divorce petition makes life easier and whether it is worth the risk of lodging the paperwork incorrectly and finding your petition rejected is something for you to consider.
And perhaps more importantly are you willing to risk the change that you have not made the appropriate financial claims and therefore lose out on what you might legitimately be entitled to?
I’m all in favour of simplifying the law, for clients and for us as family lawyers, but I do think it’s very important to understand the legal implications of decisions you make when you divorce, especially when it comes to agreeing a financial settlement.
And although all of us who’ve worked in the family law arena for years might think the forms and terminology is straight-forward to the public it really isn’t. So, do take advice and get help from an experienced family lawyer.
About Andrew Robotham
Article written by Andrew Robotham family lawyer with Woolley & Co, Solicitors.
Andy advises on all aspects of divorce, separation and family law and is highly regarded by clients and fellow professionals alike. You can reach Andy on 01332 413109.
Article first published on the Woolley & Co, Solicitors website here – Doing your own divorce – Can I go it alone.