DIY divorce (2)

(1) The divorce process is commonly divided into three parts (not all of which will apply to every case). These parts are (a) the process of obtaining a divorce (culminating in obtaining the decree absolute which allows both parties to remarry if they wish), (b) disputes over property (how the matrimonial assets are to be divided up and whether maintenance should be paid etc) and (c) disputes about children where the parents cannot agree such issues as custody or residence.The latter two aspects of a divorce are issues which most people would be unwise to try and tackle themselves.

It may well be that in a simple case a person may be able to handle a divorce so far as obtaining decree absolute but it becomes a very different matter if there are issues about assets or children. These are both areas where a prudent person would be wise to take professional advice. For instance, obtaining a pension sharing order is not something that a lay person can usually do without legal assistance. It is also very important to understand that a divorce is not finished simply by obtaining decree absolute. Even in cases where at the point of divorce there are no assets it is imperative that the financial issues are dealt with formally and finally. To understand why this is so important please look at the page containing details of the case of Wyatt v Vince. Not dealing with this aspect at the time of the divorce can be a very expensive mistake and that mistake may not become apparent until many years have passed. If a DIY litigant does nothing else it cannot be stressed too much how important it is to take proper advice about how to close off any financial issues (even if there appear to be none).

2) Assuming that someone still wants to conduct the divorce him/herself it is much simpler if one is simply talking about the process which culminates in decree absolute. All the same, it is important to realise that the law is a technical area of expertise just like any other learned skill and it is easy to make mistakes. For instance, it is simple for a layperson to assume that if, say, a husband leaves home and chooses to work overseas then that is unreasonable behaviour on her husband’s part and that should entitle her to obtain a divorce based on unreasonable behaviour. However, there are at least two other grounds for divorce which could apply in this situation – desertion or separation. If the person in this case issued a divorce based on unreasonable behaviour then it would depend entirely how the particulars of behaviour were drafted whether such a petition would be acceptable to a court. If the court decides that the particulars as drafted indicate desertion or separation rather than unreasonable behaviour then the petition will be rejected.

Pitfalls such as the above are common and can turn what might have been a quick divorce for a professional into something which it is really difficult for a layperson to disentangle. This can have a huge impact upon the time scale of a divorce. Courts do not respond to anything by return of post. In fact a  Freedom of Information request elicited the staggering fact that at one of the busiest divorce centres in the country the average period of time which elapsed between sending a divorce petition to the court and obtaining decree absolute was 373 days. The point is, a simple mistake at any point in the procedure can cause an extraordinary delay. Before deciding to embark on a DIY divorce you should think carefully about these issues. A DIY divorce is certainly possible and feasible but it is rarely quite as simple as you think if have had no experience of dealing with divorce before. The point about dealing with the financial issues is extremely important but it is so easy to overlook in a DIY divorce.

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