How To Know If You Need a Divorce Solicitor
In complicated divorces which involve substantial matrimonial assets, both parties will often have their own divorce solicitor.
But is a solicitor necessary in more straightforward separations where stakes are not so high?
Do you legally need a solicitor to get divorced?
There is no legal obligation for either husband or wife to use a solicitor in order to get divorced.
In an uncontested divorce, if the couple can reach an agreement on how to distribute any financial assets and childcare responsibilities, there will generally be no need for lawyers to get involved.
in this scenario, a simple divorce online will be suitable for most couples.
When should you seek a divorce solicitor?
It’s not always possible to achieve a quick divorce, even with the best intentions from both parties.
If there are significant assets at stake and the divorcing parties cannot agree on how the matrimonial pot (ie shared assets) should be divided up, it will usually be advisable to instruct a solicitor for each side, especially if one party is in a much stronger financial position.
Similarly, if the divorce is highly acrimonious and the spouses are not talking to one another then it will often be necessary for a trained family lawyer to step in.
Also, if there are any children involved, this can make things more complicated and a family solicitor can help.
A specialist divorce lawyer will not only be able to handle all the paperwork and explain the process, but they can engage in negotiations with the other spouse and their solicitors.
They will be able to provide advice on achieving the most beneficial outcome, spotting potential future problems and implementing preventative solutions in a settlement.
The main disadvantage of using a lawyer for divorce is the cost; solicitors fees can be disproportionately high in certain cases, especially if matters end up in court, and legal expenses can deplete the matrimonial pot.
Furthermore, in more straightforward divorce scenarios, involving lawyers can serve to inflame matters and potentially create more complications.
When is a solicitor not necessary?
In the case of an amicable break up where a couple (i) do not have any significant shared assets and (ii) do not have any children together, it will not normally be necessary to obtain legal advice.
Even if the divorcing parties cannot agree on how to divide up the matrimonial pot, as long as they are still willing to engage in discussion, they may be able to resolve things via mediation.
Getting a divorce without a solicitor will always be less expensive in the short term, as there are no lawyers’ fees to pay.
Furthermore, many divorcing couples pride themselves on being able to resolve matters between themselves.
However, getting a divorce without legal advice can prove costly in the long run.
For example, an ex-spouse can claim future earnings (eg see the case of Wyatt v Vince), so it is important to include a ‘clean break’ clause in any divorce settlement to prevent this potential outcome.
A divorce solicitor will be able to spot common pitfalls such as this and ensure the financial settlement is drawn up correctly to protect their client’s interests.
How to get divorced without a solicitor
The administrative process of divorce is fairly straightforward and essentially involves the following steps:
- Submit an application for a divorce – This is done either online or through the post. The application must be made by post (using form D8) if either party is using a solicitor.
- Acknowledgement of service – the other party must reply to the acknowledgement of service form which is sent out by the court. This will essentially state that they are happy with the reasons stated for divorce and that it will not be contested. If they intend to contest the divorce, this will normally require solicitors to get involved.
- Decree nisi – the court will consider the divorce application and, assuming everything is in order, will grant a decree nisi, which is an affirmation from the court that the divorce can proceed.
- Financial order – this essentially gives legal standing to any financial agreement. If either separating party applies to the court for a financial order, both themselves and their spouse (or civil partner) must fill out a separate Form E – one each.
- Decree absolute – the decree absolute is the legal document which officially ends a marriage.
Carrying out your own divorce can be rather time-consuming, stressful and the smallest mistakes can be costly.
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