A do-it-yourself (DIY) divorce is where a separating couple take on the process of legal separation with little to no help from a legal professional. We have seen an increase in ‘DIY’ divorces following the move to online divorce applications.
However, it is a common misconception among people that the divorce process also aims to resolve the couple’s finances. The divorce procedures, the financial procedures and the child arrangement procedures are three very separate processes and obtaining a final divorce order before reaching a financial settlement can have serious consequences.
In a first of its kind study, the University of Bristol, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, looked at the detailed financial arrangements couples make and how they work them out. The aim was to fill the evidence gap from the data received and to assist in consideration of any reforms in this area of the law.
Are you losing money in a DIY divorce?
Fair Shares report: financial and property arrangements on divorce
Around 100,000 couples divorce every year in England and Wales, and yet only a third of these couples use the legal system to reach an agreement on their financial arrangements.
The data was collected by a large-scale online survey of those divorced within the preceding 5 years and looked to explore 3 main questions:
- What are the financial and property arrangements made?
- How do divorcing couples arrive at financial and property arrangements?
- What are the short-term effects of those arrangements?
Navigating Divorce Finances: the critical role of legal advice
Most couples who have modest assets, in an attempt to save costs, decide that it is best to negotiate their own financial arrangements or often reach no settlement at all. Some just walk away as to make any claims was just too difficult. With the restrictions on access to legal aid, and with finances often already stretched, if a couple has to divide their assets, the legal fees associated with this are an expense that they may think they can do without.
However, the Report determined that when legal advice was used, nearly a quarter of divorcees said it cost less than £1,000. The Report highlighted lack of knowledge about the financial position and also confusion about how to seek appropriate advice.
Protecting your financial future: the impact of legal advice
Probably not surprisingly the Report confirmed that it was the financially disadvantaged, and often the women in the marriage, who were the ones to suffer from not taking legal advice upon divorce. The women, particularly mothers, were more likely to have had part-time employment during the marriage, to have earned less than the husband, and to have smaller pensions. This financial vulnerability impacted on their ability to achieve the same standard of living post-divorce as they had enjoyed during the marriage, particularly if they were the main carer for the children.
The legal processes are designed to achieve fairness and they attempt to balance the often-unequal financial footing of parties coming out of a divorce. Without knowing or considering your spouse’s assets, earning potential, income, and pensions, and understanding your claims you may be putting your future financial security at risk. Many spouses are unaware of what pension the other has and this, as well as other assets, can be completely overlooked unless advice is obtained.
Can DIY divorces really save you money?
Whilst you may save money in the short term by offsetting legal fees, it is essential to consider the potential loss that could occur if you do not receive the appropriate advice. It should also be appreciated that that a divorce itself does not extinguish financial claims which in theory remain open indefinitely. An extreme example of this is the case of Vince v Wyatt where an ex-wife brought claims some 18 years after the couple had divorced (and the divorce was many years since their separation) and succeeded.
How can our divorce solicitors help?
Legal advice can be invaluable and does not need to cost a fortune, even an initial meeting with a solicitor at a fixed fee appointment could give you a good steer on the key principles.
At Hanne & Co you can receive expert advice at a competitive price. If you are going through a divorce and you are concerned about your future financial security, please get in touch by calling us on +44 (0) 207 228 0017 or by submitting a form below.