As part of "good divorce week", national family justice body Resolution has recently released a poll calling on the government to improve access to early legal advice for divorcing couples.
The results of this poll have shone a light on the increase of "DIY divorces" as a whopping 57% of divorcing couples surveyed had sought little or no professional or legal help.
The stress of navigating the family courts without representation has taken its toll and led to a significant worsening of people's experience of divorce as 41% of those who divorced within the last five years suffered mental health episodes including depression and anxiety.
The findings also showed that 63% of all divorcees surveyed felt that having early access to professional advice, where legal rights and options are made clear from the outset, would have improved their personal experience.
This highlights how early legal intervention can be a savvy investment, not only for the more obvious reasons such as achieving a better settlement or outcome but also for saving yourself precious time and mental energy.
Here we will explain some of the top pitfalls of DIY divorce;
1. An increase in unnecessary acrimony and hostility between the parties. Without the benefit of advice from an independent source who is emotionally removed from the situation, matters can become unnecessarily heated which can have a long-lasting impact on the relationship and any children involved.
2. Delays due to errors in the paperwork without access to advice simple errors in the divorce petition (such as using or relying upon the wrong fact of divorce, or drafting the particulars of unreasonable behaviour too lightly), may mean that this is knocked back by the court or defended by the other party which can delay the already protracted process of divorce (though it is hoped that this will be alleviated with the introduction of no fault divorce next year. It is also possible that by filling the form out incorrectly the parties could lose out on vital financial claims later down the line if they remarry.
3. Financial claims - Possibly one of the most widespread misconceptions relates to couples who think that the divorce process will, of itself, resolve the financial matters and protect against future claims. This is unfortunately not the case, and if matters are not resolved at the time of the divorce then separating couples risk leaving themselves vulnerable to financial claims in future.
DIY divorces have lead to an increase in couples who believed they had resolved the finances between themselves, only to find that their ex-spouse has applied to the court for further financial provision years down the line. Obtaining expert legal advice in relation to your financial arrangements is therefore of paramount importance to protect yourself against future claims, particularly if you expect to receive an inheritance or if you are starting up a new business.
For the reasons outlined above, obtaining expert specialist advice from a resolution accredited adviser or collaborative focused law firm such as Ashfords is key to achieving a positive and constructive outcome in divorce, and to protecting yourself against future claims.
The Resolution-commissioned YouGov survey of more than 1,000 divorcees found that 41% of those who divorced within the last five years suffered mental health episodes including depression and anxiety. Worryingly, of those, just over half reported having suicidal thoughts (54%). ... The findings have prompted calls for greater support for divorcing couples as the survey also found that 63% of all divorcees surveyed felt that having early access to professional advice, where legal rights and options are made clear from the outset, would have improved their personal experience