DIY Divorce Dangers - Why You Shouldn't Represent Yourself12th Jan 2021
Rise In Do-It-Yourself Divorce
More people getting divorced now have to represent themselves in court. For most it is a question of cost.
They can’t get Legal Aid; they can’t afford a solicitor. Or they are foolishly tempted by the false economy of downloading DIY divorce papers online. The idea of saving a few hundred pounds upfront blinds them to the very real danger of losing thousands of pounds later on.
But Legal Aid for divorce and financial matters has not been abolished completely. There are still a few ways to get Legal Aid. Certain circumstances can make you eligible.
You Could Get Less Access To Your Children
Appearing in court without representation when it comes to your children must be incredibly daunting. Clearly it is preferable to have the benefit of legal advice in such situations.
We can offer competitive rates for preparing court applications, assistance with the process, representation at hearings on a one-off basis or full representation. We will always discuss costs upfront so you know where you stand.
You need expert legal advice. If your former partner has a lawyer and you don’t, you could fail to apply for crucial rights (or fail to put forward compelling legal arguments). As a result, you could see less of your children – and miss magic moments, key milestones in their growth and development.
If you’re a parent, that alone should be a very sobering reason not to risk going it alone in court.
You Could Lose Much More Money (And Your Home)
This is the other big reason to have a divorce solicitor. Dividing up the family assets fairly involves negotiations. So you’ll need a skilled legal negotiator on your team.
You need someone experienced who does this for a living, someone who knows all the tricks the other side can pull. Such as trying to:
- hide assets
- deny you a share of the family home just because your name is not on the property deed
- deny you access to their business or pension assets
- saddle you unfairly with their debts or other financial liabilities (especially if they have been profligate)
- ‘compensate’ you with assets that are actually yours by right (paying you off with your own money).
You may not get what you’re entitled to receive. There’s much more to divorce than simply filing the right documents in the right way at the right time (though that can be complex enough for the untrained).
Your Former Partner Could Come Back For More Money Later
This is a very serious risk. Attempting to get divorced without a lawyer could leave a legal loophole. Your former partner could apply for more money years later if you suddenly win the lottery or gain a significant inheritance.
An experienced solicitor will ensure that your divorce will result in a fair, full and final settlement. So you can draw a line under it all and move on.
Your Divorce Will Take Longer and Be More Stressful
Without a divorce solicitor, you could miss out on vital information that could affect how you prepare your case: you won’t know the right questions to ask.
And then in court you’ll be all alone with no legal back-up. So you’ll almost certainly make procedural errors. Problems with applications will cause delays – making an emotionally difficult time even more challenging.
All this has resulted in a painful lesson. Not just for the divorcees involved…but also for the government. It tried to save money by curtailing Legal Aid for divorce. So (predictably), there has been a significant increase in the number of people representing themselves in the family courts.
And despite the very best efforts of these litigants in person, their understandable lack of legal knowledge delays proceedings in courts that are already overburdened. It has made divorce more time-consuming and stressful – not just for the protagonists but for everyone concerned.
This is yet another good reason to keep divorce out of court by using mediation instead.
You May Appear Less Favourable In Court
Without legal training, you probably won’t meet all the technical requirements. You may also fall foul of court procedures and etiquette.
The court will understand: they will make allowances for the fact that you have no lawyer. Up to a point.
Judges and other court officials are highly professional, they have great forbearance and patience, and they are committed to ensuring that everyone appearing before them is treated fairly, equally and with respect – whether they have a lawyer or not.
But if you repeatedly (and deliberately) ignore court procedures or are disrespectful, then you may undermine your credibility and your case. In rare instances, you may even be in contempt of court (which could result in a fine, sequestration of assets or imprisonment).
You Are Less Equipped To Deal With Unforeseen Consequences
There could well be unforeseen consequences (or other surprises) – because that’s what your former partner and their solicitor may be planning to spring on you.
Having your own divorce solicitor ensures you can avoid such eventualities. Or be better equipped to deal with them if they do occur.
You Could Lose Objectivity
That’s a polite way of saying that – without a family law solicitor by your side – you could be prone to making counterproductive emotional outbursts in court. Or the other side could provoke you into doing so by exploiting a weakness or character flaw.
Losing objectivity could undermine your arguments. Remember that the court isn’t interested in playing the blame game. Opening up old wounds will do little to help you and your former partner reach a fair agreement.
But What If I Can’t Afford A Solicitor?
Ending a marriage is distressing but it does not have to be ruinously expensive. You would be surprised how affordable a fixed-fee divorce is.
There are various ways to help you manage the cost of getting divorced. Find out more about them here.
Get Expert Legal Advice
Worried about the cost of divorce? Contact Coles Miller Partner Richard Perrins, Head of the Family Department.