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DIY DIVORCE UK

DIY divorce in England - is it possible? The answer is, "Yes". It is a general principle in English law that no person needs to employ a lawyer if he/she does not want to and anyone can represent themselves in court. This is true of divorce just as it is of any other legal proceedings.

If you want to conduct your own divorce it is easy to contact a local County Court and obtain the necessary forms. And for some people this is a perfectly satisfactory option so long as you are aware that the court staff cannot give legal advice and if you choose to do this yourself then you must (a) take the time to learn how to do it and (b) if anything does go wrong then you have to accept the responsibility for it.

To that extent it is very like servicing your own car or doing your own plumbing. It can be done but it does take the time to learn how to do it and if the job is bodged then there is no-one else to blame. The buck stops with you.

Before deciding to conduct a DIY divorce there are a number of things worth thinking about. Firstly, it is very difficult to be dispassionate when acting as a litigant in person. It is difficult to stand back from the facts and look at them objectively. People have a very natural tendency to see things from their own perspective and not to look at matters impartially. It is sometimes very difficult for a wife whose husband who has committed adultery, for instance, not to feel that she has been "wronged" and that the courts will recognise this 'wrongdoing' in any settlement. They will not. This very often spills over into naming 'the other party' in the divorce petition. In general that is not a good idea for various reasons but people do not usually realise that until they have made the mistake of doing so.

It is to obtain dispassionate advice that people go to lawyers and the importance of this should not be underestimated.

Be that as it may, it is still feasible for some people to do their own divorce if that is what they want. They should, however, be aware of the following points:-

(1) The 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 known as ancillary relief) and (c) disputes about children where the parents cannot agree such issues as custody or residence.

Frankly, 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.

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. Before deciding to embark on a DIY divorce you should think carefully about these issues. A DIY divorce is possible and feasible in some cases but it is rarely quite as simple as you think if have had no experience of dealing with divorce before.

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NOTE

Please note we do not help to draft DIY divorce petitions. There is no half way house between a DIY divorce and instructing a solicitor to act on your behalf. Do please email if you have any other question. We do nothing but divorce related work.