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Family Matters - DIY divorces

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This was first published in the Wigan Observer, 27th August 2013

Q: My husband and I are considering divorce. As we’re both in agreement, I have been researching DIY divorces on the internet that claim they can provide all the paperwork for £50. Are these types of divorces legitimate?

A: Given the current economic climate and the loss of legal aid for many divorce cases since April this year, it’s no surprise that people are struggling to meet the costs of divorce themselves and are turning to websites which offer DIY divorces for a low cost.

Indeed these websites are reporting a sharp rise in couples using their services and choosing to do it themselves to avoid hefty legal bills.

However, I would encourage the use of the appealing low-cost DIY divorce with a huge spoonful of caution. These types of divorce are only appropriate for simple, uncontested cases and in these situations, they can be a cost-effective solution.

But as a family lawyer, I have seen first-hand the fall out that can come from trying to do it the DIY-way, particularly when there are children or assets involved too. Trying to navigate the divorce process without the experienced helping hand of a solicitor could not only prolong the divorce process, but endanger your finances and well-being in the long-term.

Before starting the divorce process, there may be important questions to be answered including how to divide the assets, who should live in the family home, and the arrangements for the children? DIY divorces may also incur delays or additional fees if any information is missing, or incorrect, leaving many couples in a prolonged phase of heartache. In addition, such low fees cannot include the cost of court fees, which are typically around £350. These can range in the thousands of pounds in complex cases.

If you are concerned about being able to afford a divorce please do research your options properly. For example, many solicitors offer a ‘checking’ package, where they can ensure all your DIY documents are in order. Solicitor-managed fixed-fee services are also accessible, to ensure there are no nasty surprises along the way. Complex circumstances involving children, or the division of finances need a guiding hand and there are services out there to suit individual needs and financial situations.

By Chris Fairhurst, associate solicitor in the family law team 

Media information: Lianne Tracey and Chloe Kendall, Stephensons Solicitors LLP, Tel: 01616 966 229, Email: lct@stephensons.co.uk and cke@stephensons.co.uk