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Common Pitfalls of a DIY Divorce

No-one ever believes that they will get divorced; therefore, when it happens, many people become engulfed in negative emotions such as fear, shame, and guilt. When you are feeling this way, it can be extremely difficult to make decisions about finances and arrangements for your children. The positive aspect of having an experienced Divorce Solicitor on your side is they can look at your situation dispassionately and provide pragmatic advice to ensure your best interests are protected and you can move on to a positive future. The problem with Do It Yourself (DIY) divorces is that you miss out on receiving expert advice. This can lead to you making decisions that compromise your future financial security and negatively impact your children.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (DDSA) 2020 introduced the concept of ‘no-fault divorce.’ It also made DIY divorce more accessible and less contentious for couples wishing to end their marriage without legal representation in the UK. However, there remain serious risks associated with DIY divorce. We have set these out below so you can make an informed decision as to whether or not a DIY divorce is the right option for you. Before we outline the pitfalls of the DIY divorce process, it is useful to briefly explain the concept of no-fault divorce.

What is no-fault divorce?

Before the DDSA 2020 came into force, couples seeking a divorce had to prove one party was at fault, through adultery, unreasonable behaviour, or desertion. You could also get divorced after two years of separation if the other party gave their consent. Otherwise, you had to wait five years to divorce. The DDSA 2020 removed any need to establish blame. Instead, one or both parties must simply state that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. There is no longer any option for one spouse to contest the divorce. In addition, the DDSA 2020 allows for joint divorce applications, where both parties agree to the divorce, alongside the traditional single-applicant process. It also provides for a minimum timeframe of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to when the conditional order (formally the decree nisi) can be made, allowing more time for reflection and agreement on issues like finances and child arrangements.


What are the potential pitfalls of DIY divorce?

While the DDSA 2020 makes the divorce process more amicable by removing the need to establish fault, DIY divorce is not suitable for all couples. Complex issues involving finances, property, or children require both parties to receive independent legal advice. Additionally, the legal paperwork and divorce process can still be complex and must be navigated with care. Errors in forms or misunderstandings of legal terminology can lead to delays or issues down the line.


If there are any issues concerning domestic abuse or one spouse demonstrates controlling or narcissistic tendencies, a Do It Yourself divorce is highly inadvisable. This is because if the weaker spouse (in either financial or emotional terms) does not receive the support and expert advice from a Divorce Solicitor who will not be intimidated by the other side’s tactics, they could very well end up with a financial settlement well short of what they should have received.


Another potential pitfall of DIY divorce is not applying for a formal financial Consent Order or Child Arrangement Order. Although it is always best to negotiate the divorce financial settlement and arrangements for your children between yourselves, without legally binding court orders, you and your spouse are vulnerable to further financial claims being made in the future and child arrangement disputes, the latter being especially applicable if one of you meets a new partner.


What Our Experts Have to Say on DIY Divorces

Do It Yourself divorces area viable option in the UK for couples who are willing to navigate the legal process themselves. While it offers financial savings (in the short term), it does require careful consideration and handling of all legal aspects.


Before deciding to proceed with a DIY divorce, you should carefully assess your situation and consider seeking legal advice if there are potential complexities in the financial settlement or arrangements for your children. And remember, although online resources and guides may be helpful, they are not a substitute for professional legal advice, especially now that many such articles and guides are created using AI.


If you are considering separation, divorce, or civil partnership dissolution, consider speaking to a Family Law Solicitor in complete confidence. They will explain the options available to you and answer any questions you may have. In addition, a Solicitor will ensure you and your children’s best interests are protected.

Guillaumes LLP Solicitors is a full-service law firm based in Weybridge, Surrey. We have a highly experienced family law team who can assist you with your divorce or civil partnership dissolution. To make an appointment, please call us on 01932 840 111.

22 May 2024
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