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Why Divorce Online Can Be An Expensive Trap17th Jan 2019

by Lindsey Arnold on 17th Jan 2019

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Planning to divorce online to save money? Beware – you could be falling into a very expensive trap!

If you agree to a settlement not approved by the court then your former spouse could come back later for more money…even though you have divorced them.

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How Online Divorce Caused This Problem

Online divorce was designed for ‘litigants in person’. These are people who represent themselves in their divorce because they do not have a solicitor.

And there have been lots more of them since the cuts in Legal Aid. Last year saw the start of 23,000+ online divorces (including 400 over the Christmas period, 13 on Christmas Day alone).

And here’s the crux of the problem…

Getting divorced and agreeing a financial settlement are two different things in the eyes of the law. Many people assume (wrongly) that they are the same; they assume that all the financial issues are concluded by the granting of a Decree Absolute which legally ends a marriage.

But financial claims can continue unless one of the people concerned has either remarried or obtained a Clean Break Order.

This is an accident waiting to happen for litigants in person. Without a divorce solicitor to advise them of the dangers, they assume that getting unhitched is simply a matter of completing online forms or downloading paper copies and dashing them out with a biro.

You Could Be Pursued For Money Decades After Divorcing

This is no idle threat – this is a very real danger. It happened in the recent case of Vince vs Wyatt.

A wealthy businessman’s ex-wife succeeded in getting money out of him 20 years after they divorced. She was awarded £300,000 plus £200,000 in costs. That may be peanuts compared with his £57 million fortune but it is still a tidy sum in the world that we mere mortals inhabit.

The lesson here is simple: get a Clean Break Order to ensure there is a full and final divorce financial settlement.

Ticking a few boxes on an online divorce form is not the same thing. It will not protect you from a former partner with a long memory and an eye for your money. So obtain a Clean Break Order.

And there is more… 

Pension Sharing 

Unless you take advice, you may not realise that you could also ask the court to make an order to share your former spouse’s pension fund.

The Remarriage Trap

Just got divorced? Do not remarry until you have sorted out your finances. (Remember that bit about divorce and financial settlement being two separate things?)

If you remarry before you have finalised the finances from your marriage, you may be stopped from applying to the court to sort out matters – so you could lose out.

Using A Solicitor Need Not Be Expensive

Now you see why online divorce can be such a false economy – particularly when you discover that using a solicitor does not have to be costly. Find out more here.

Getting divorced involves a lot of financial questions at a tough time when you may be less equipped emotionally to deal with them:

  • who pays the legal fees in a divorce?
  • can you pay monthly?
  • can you pay the solicitor after you have divorced?
  • will divorce mean financial ruin?

Find the answers here.

Further Information

For more information, contact Coles Miller Associate Lindsey Arnold, Senior Family Lawyer, at the Poole office (01202 355695) or Partner Richard Perrins, head of the Family Department, at the Broadstone office (01202 355698).

This document is not intended to constitute and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice on any specific matter. No liability for the accuracy of the content of this document, or the consequences of relying on it, is assumed by the author. If you seek further information, please contact Managing Partner Neil Andrews at Coles Miller Solicitors LLP.