Tara Jones, Trainee Solicitor at Frettens, provides her top tips for students looking to apply for legal placements and describes her own experience as a placement student.
Online Divorces: Can you do a divorce yourself?
Recent statistics show that 42% of UK marriages end in divorce. This figure has been increasing for some time and with the introduction of no fault divorce in the UK, more and more couples are looking at 'DIY divorces' or 'online divorces'.
What is do it yourself divorce?
A DIY divorce is the legal process of obtaining a divorce from your spouse, without the need of involving solicitors.
Can you do a divorce yourself?
Yes you can, through the gov.uk website. This site is tailored to people carrying out the divorce themselves and will help you through the process.
Solicitors are now able to use the online portal when they are instructed in a divorce as well so the process is moving more to online applications, rather than paper applications.
There are advantages and disadvantages to DIY divorce. They can be a good option for certain couples, especially where a divorce is uncontested and uncomplicated, but won't be suitable in all circumstances. At Frettens we offer a fixed fee divorce, for those who would like the support of a solicitor in straight forward divorce proceedings.
Pros and cons of online divorce
Advantages of DIY divorce
- Only fees are the Court Fee which makes it more accessible to a wider range of people
- Makes obtaining a financial order more accessible if not paying fees on the divorce side as well
- Can be a quicker process than paper applications
- Could potentially help keep matters amicable if both parties are agreeable to a divorce
Disadvantages of DIY divorce
- Do not have a solicitor to ask questions
- Do not have a solicitor to obtain advice from
- Divorce does not automatically resolve the financial matters so this can be left open
- Technical issues can cause delays
- If something in process goes wrong, don’t have a solicitor to advise and help resolve the issue
- Issues such as whether to claim costs from the Respondent may be missed and you don’t not have the benefit of a solicitor to go through this aspect – when costs can be claimed, what costs can be claimed etc
The biggest disadvantage with a DIY or online divorce is that they will not settle finances with a financial order.
What is a financial order?
When couples part, there are two separate elements that need to be taken care of. The legal element (divorce) and the financial element. A financial order sets out the financial agreement been parties on their divorce.
It is a legally binding document setting out the terms of the financial agreement once it is approved and sealed by the Court.
Why are financial orders important?
I wrote in detail about financial orders and their importance in another recent article that you can read here. To summarise their importance:
- Without a financial order in place, the financial matters between a couple are left open
- Obtaining your Decree Absolute does not automatically resolve the financial matters between you
- Until there is an order in place, either party could potentially make a financial claim against the other, even if the Decree Absolute was obtained several years ago
How long does it take for an online divorce?
The length of time is case dependent, and outside factors, such as the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic, can have an impact and cause delays; however, usually a divorce can take between 4-8 months, whether online or via paper application.
How much does an online divorce cost if both parties agree?
When a Petition for Divorce is submitted to Court, no matter whether the divorce is agreed or not, there is a Court fee payable of £550.00. Again, no matter whether a divorce is agreed or not, if either party has instructed a solicitor you will have those fees payable as well.
In some cases, the Petitioner can make a claim for costs against the Respondent.
You should also take into account the cost of sorting out the financial matters arising from the divorce.
What are the stages of divorce?
There are two main stages to the divorce process.
The first stage is called Decree Nisi – if the Court grant a Decree Nisi, this is the Court stating that from the information they have, contained in the divorce petition etc, that the relevant ground for divorce is met and therefore you are entitled to a divorce. This is not the final order and you are still married at this point
There is then a waiting period of 6 weeks before you can apply for the second and final stage of divorce.This is the Decree Absolute – if this is granted, the divorce is granted at this point and you become a single person.
Online DIY Divorce: A specialist solicitor's view
Online or DIY divorces can be a good option for couples whose separation is amicable and straightforward. An online divorce, however, does not settle finances.
Until there is a Financial Consent Order in place that has been approved by the Court, either party could make a financial claim against the other, although claims are restricted if the person making the claim has remarried.
Even many years after the Decree Absolute is granted, claims can still be made. This was essentially what happened in Vince v Wyatt, a high-profile case that gained a lot of media coverage at the time.
I would recommend that anyone looking at an online or DIY divorce seriously considers legal advice on also obtaining a financial order.
Divorce Solicitors: Free initial advice
We offer a free initial chat to all new clients, so if you are considering an online divorce, or have any questions about financial orders, you can get in touch here. One of our bright lawyers will be more than happy to discuss your options with you.