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We are all busy people and we are all feeling the squeeze as the cost of living is increasing; it is therefore quite understandable that people may want to bag an instant bargain online from the comfort of their sofa and for some, even meet their future love online, but what about doing your own divorce?

Anybody seeking a divorce will have no doubt seen or heard about those online DIY divorce websites popping up, offering ‘quick and easy divorces for as little as £60!’ and let’s face it, who could resist an offer like that? Apparently not Gary Linekar and Ex-Wife Danielle Bux, who reportedly used such a service to handle their divorce last year. You may be asking yourself, if it’s good enough for a man earning a reported £1.76 milion, then surely it’s good enough for me, right? What’s the catch? Well allow me spill the beans…

You wouldn’t perform surgery on yourself!

You’re ill (stick with me), what do you do? You go and see a doctor, get a diagnosis and some treatment of course. We all know that one of the worst things you can do is do a quick internet search and self-diagnose. Ending a marriage properly is very similar, there are certain administrative steps that need to be applied and if it is not done correctly, you can end up with a real headache just as Mr McLeod-Baikie found when he applied for a cheap online divorce back in 2011. According to reports, Mr McLeod-Baikie failed to ensure that he had actually obtained the decree absolute (the official divorce certificate) before marrying his second wife. This resulted in a charge of bigamy and a fine imposed on him by the Magistrates court (and probably a few nights in the spare room to boot!)

Do fall foul of the legal lingo

Let’s face it, the law is complex. That why it take us lot six or seven years to qualify as solicitors!  But if you decide to do a DIY divorce you need to be aware that the court forms and legal lingo can be complicated and if forms are not 100% accurate, court forms can be returned causing delays and increased costs. Time for a mini-lecture…

There is only one ground to a divorce, this being that the marriage has “irretrievably broken down.” The person who is applying for the divorce (“the Petitioner”) must prove they can satisfy this ground by relying one of the following five “facts”:

  • The other person’s adultery
  • The other person’s unreasonable behaviour
  • The other person’s desertion
  • Separating for two years and with the other person’s consent to the divorce, or;
  • Separating for five years.

With the lure of a cheap online DIY divorce and cuts to legal aid it is no wonder more and more people are doing the divorce themselves without legal representation, but with legal lingo being such, it is clear in recent years that many people are simply unclear as to which of the above five facts would best suit their scenario.

The fact of Desertion is very rare indeed and would require the Petitioner to prove that the other person has left him or her without the Petitioner’s consent for at least two years. This is a rare fact to rely on because it is so hard to prove, and in some cases tracing the other person is a tricky issue. For these reasons it tends to be better to instead rely on one of the other facts e.g. the other’s unreasonable behaviour or one of the two separation facts. Recent statistics provided by The Office of National Statistics (the ONS) have reported that the number of cases citing desertion has actually increased from 490 in 2010 to 717 in 2015. With the increased reliance of this fact and the requirement to prove desertion, this may leave may people having difficulties in finalising the divorce at a later stage in the process and then having to instruct a Solicitor to rectify the situation at a greater cost than may have otherwise been the case if the solicitor had been instructed from the get-go.

The hidden extras

Don’t you just hate it when you think you’ve bagged that bargain flight online only to find that they hit you right at the end those sneaky additional costs such as credit card fees, baggage charges and a charge to book your seat? Well, you need to watch out for those hidden charges when looking into whether a DIY online divorce is right for you. To start a divorce, there is a court fee payable which may not be obvious from the advertising and this fee is currently £550. In some cases you may also have to pay a fee for the other person to be personally served with the court forms if they are not co-operating.

Get your finances in order, AN order that is

Would you buy a house by simply handing over a big wad of cash in return for a set of keys? No! You’d expect a survey to be carried out, a contract to be exchanged and your name registered as the legal owner with the Land Registry. Many people think that getting that all important decree absolute means that the ex can no longer pursue any financial claims again them in the future but they’d be wrong. This is what is often the error made by many people when doing a DIY divorce. These online DIY divorce packages often neglect to mention that the package will not deal with the financial aspects of the divorce and I have seen it many times in practice when people have come to me, having done their own divorce, shocked to receive a letter from the ex several years later seeking to pursue a claim on the house, pension or other assets. In order to ensure you have a clean break which would prevent the ex from pursuing any future claims, it is important that a financial clean break is recorded in a court order. This can be done through a solicitor to ensure you are fully protected.

In summary, the advice my friends is to get that all important legal advice from a qualified family law specialist at the earliest opportunity. Not only will this give you an outcome tailored to suit your specific needs but will also offer you that essential piece of mind. If you wish to speak to me please feel free to email me on kerry.russell@gorvins.com or call 0161 930 5151.

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