Do-it-Yourself Divorce: the Ticking Time Bomb
Here at Fiona Bruce Solicitors, we have noticed more and more couples deciding to try and save money and sort out their own divorce, keeping solicitors out of it.
Whether this is as a result of the previous recession and subsequent cut back or whether it is the increased self help guides available via the internet (or a combination of both), we found one consistent theme running through all such cases where we have subsequently had to become involved. We do not overstate it by the headline used, and wanted to take the opportunity to get some of the information out there.
Divorcing couples securing their own divorce, if done correctly, can be a very sensible way of saving money. Often though, mistakes are made that require solicitors to then get involved to fix it, but in our experience in many cases one significant error is made.
The couple, in the spirit of openness and in their continued attempts to exercise goodwill towards each other, discuss how they are going to separate their financial assets at the same time. Because they are away from the adversarial Court system it will often result in an agreement being reached. Someone gets to keep their house, someone gets a pot of money and other assets are divided and shared in ways that they regard as fair. The Decree Absolute comes through, and the couple move on with their life but completely unaware that the financial agreement that they had reached, and implemented, has no enforceability behind it.
Future Claim Rights
Either spouse, even after divorce, may be able to apply to the Divorce Courts for a share of the matrimonial assets. If the Divorce Petition is drafted correctly, then the person issuing the divorce has reserved the right for the rest of their life to make that claim. The person being divorced would have to make a claim before they remarried but when such a claim is issued; it is not back dated to the date of the Decree Absolute but is based on the assets that the parties own at that time. If one party therefore decides to issue an Application twenty years after the divorce, then the Court will assess the situation based on the assets they own at that point, twenty years on. Whilst the Court can certainly take account of the agreement reached between the parties, it cannot have its hands tied behind its back, and if a Court believes that additional provision should be made, then it will do so.
A Not-So Clean Break
In our experience, couples want to know that divorce means that they become completely separate people, and that they are no longer tied to each other, financially. It therefore comes as a great shock to the very many we see that this is not the case, and very often their decision to try and save money and avoid solicitors can end up costing them significantly more if a claim is subsequently made.
This is particularly frustrating for them because instructing a solicitor at the time of the divorce to create a clean break Financial Order, based upon their agreement, need only cost a few hundred pounds. Representing them in any future contested Court proceedings could run into several thousands of pounds. Representing them in any future contested Court Proceedings could run into several thousands of pounds, as well, of course, the potential loss of any future gained wealth.
Spend a Little to Save a Lot
In conclusion, our advice here at Fiona Bruce Solicitors is to spend a little to potentially save a lot and also sleep well. Go ahead and negotiate your agreement between you but make sure you then go and see a solicitor and have them draw up the Financial Agreement to be approved by a Divorce Court Judge. Then, and only then, can you consider the divorce to be final.
If you need legal support and advice, feel free to contact us.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute specific advice. You should not rely on the information in this article. Fiona Bruce Solicitors recommends that you seek our specific advice if you wish to rely on the any part of this article. Whilst Fiona Bruce Solicitors makes every effort to ensure that the article is accurate, Fiona Bruce Solicitors excludes all liability for claim, loss, demands or damages of any kind whatsoever (whether such claims, loss, demands or damages were foreseeable, known or otherwise) arising out of or in connection with the use of this article or any other information contained on this website. Any information provided only applies to England and Wales.