Can You Get A Divorce Without A Solicitor?
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What are my legal options when getting divorced?
The majority of people seeking a divorce still assume that they’ll require the services of divorce solicitors in order to obtain a divorce.
Using divorce lawyers to obtain a divorce is the traditional method in the UK, but what are your options if you wish to divorce without lawyers in England or Wales?
It’s important you understand that in most cases, especially when both parties are amicable, there isn’t usually a need for solicitors.
This doesn’t mean that solicitors don’t have a role to play or that you can get a divorced for free.
It is always recommended that you obtain initial legal advice to understand your legal position if you have complex financial matters, child disputes, or a potentially difficult ex-partner.
Under these circumstances instructing a lawyer to help may be necessary.
However, the actual divorce procedure in England and Wales is now largely a paperwork process and can be completed relatively easily without a solicitor.
One of the biggest benefits of getting a divorce online is the efficiency. It’s quicker and easier than the postal method.
Avoiding solicitors is the easiest way to get a quick divorce, as typically battling solicitors can add more acrimony to the situation.
Pros and cons of DIY divorce
Before proceeding with a DIY divorce there are some important things you should know. For instance, when you get divorced, the rights you acquired as a married person will no longer apply.
These include the effect of divorce upon Wills and the laws of intestacy.
Additionally, you would also lose any rights you had under your spouse’s pension provisions, therefore it’s important to address these matters before you finalise a divorce.
Usually, the main aim is to reduce the cost of divorce. Divorcing couples can do a DIY divorce simply by completing the necessary forms, paying the court fee of £593, and then working their way through the court processes.
This is the clear pro or benefit of doing it yourself, but is it a good idea for everyone?
One of the main cons of DIY divorce is the risk of making a mistake which can be difficult and very costly to rectify afterward.
For instance, a common problem many DIY applicants encounter is not being able to provide an up-to-date address for their ex-partner which can cause delays to the divorce.
Another drawback is, what do you do if your ex ignores the divorce papers? Even though a spouse cannot contest the divorce, their non-cooperation can cause problems for you that are difficult to overcome on your own.
You may also decide to finalise your financial settlement at the same time as getting divorced to further reduce costs, and this is a very good idea.
Dividing assets can be straightforward if both spouses agree, but it’s important to obtain a consent order to make it legally binding and to do this you will need a solicitor or an online consent order service.
Furthermore, even if you have no assets to divide you still need to obtain a clean break to prevent any future claims, and once again you will need a solicitor or an online clean break service to achieve this.
Considerations to make before getting divorced
It’s obvious why a seemingly low-cost, DIY divorce is so appealing, especially during these difficult times when many people are struggling to make ends meet.
The fact is that if both parties are willing and able to divorce amicably and have very few assets to consider in a financial settlement then it may well be possible to achieve a straightforward divorce.
Divorce solicitors are expensive. If both parties seek legal representation, you will end up with legal bills running into many thousands of pounds (the average cost of divorce when also dealing with finances is £8,000).
Hiring divorce solicitors can also make the divorce process more acrimonious as each party may be advised to take different actions than what has already been agreed, so be mindful of this before deciding whether to do your divorce with or without a lawyer.
If you are both on reasonably good terms and there is a mutual agreement to end your marriage then an alternative option may be a better and far cheaper solution.
Online managed divorce services are available for just a few hundred pounds, in addition to the current cost of the court fee, and so offer a huge cost saving compared to having your own solicitor act for you.
By using an online managed divorce service you will still save a lot of money but still have access to a case manager to offer free advice about any of the issues you may encounter during the divorce process. They will also be able to advise the best course of action for your financial settlement.
No-fault divorce makes it easier to get divorced without a lawyer
Typically, you may require the assistance of a solicitor if you believe that your ex-partner will ignore the divorce papers or be non-compliant.
However, the introduction of no-fault divorce on 6 April 2022 made it much easier for couples to obtain a divorce by removing the adversarial grounds for divorce rules together with the long separation requirements.
This change to the divorce law also made it much easier to file for divorce if you have an uncooperative ex-partner, which previously negated the need to instruct lawyers.
Whilst the new divorce law has made it easier for couples to navigate the divorce process, seeking legal advice is still important.
And, although it’s now easier to file your own divorce, this doesn’t mean you can simply get a free divorce – there is still the £593 court fee to pay.
For further information on what the no-fault divorce law changes mean for you, read our guide to no-fault divorce.
Six situations when divorce solicitors could be used
Firstly, it’s important to understand that getting divorced only ends your marriage, it does not automatically resolve or sever any financial matters between you and your ex-spouse, nor does it make any arrangements for your children.
Even when both parties agree that they want a divorce, these other matters may not be quite so straightforward.
Situations that may require a divorce solicitor, or at the very least, legal advice are:
- When a vulnerable spouse finds themselves in a harmful or abusive situation – while they do not necessarily need a lawyer to get through the divorce, it is important to be prepared for the proceedings.
- When splitting the marital home – there are various ways this can be achieved, some may be more appropriate than others.
- When dividing assets – pensions, investment property, savings, investments etc. – The general principle is that the matrimonial pot should be divided equally upon divorce, but in practice, many cases are often not that simple.
- When agreeing on parenting rights and/or children’s rights – if children are at the centre of the separation, divorce can become even more complicated when dealing with maintenance, access, visitation rights etc.
- When allocating responsibility for debt, liabilities, etc. – generally it will not matter if debts were accrued by an individual spouse or if they are joint debts; any liabilities built up during a marriage will reduce the overall level of assets that are divided.
- When your spouse does not respond to the divorce application – it’s important to know that you don’t need your partner’s consent to get a divorce, but despite that, your ex-spouse is still entitled to see a copy of the divorce petition. Under the rules, the court has to know that your spouse has received notification of your divorce application. If they do not respond to the application after 14 days you have several different options, but unfortunately, they all involve more time and potentially more money.
Finding the right information that relates to your situation may take some time, and while there are many Internet sources that may seem useful, there are also lots of sites that might be providing incorrect or outdated advice.
Many websites have not been updated since the divorce law changes that took place in April 2022.
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