It is almost universally agreed that the introduction of no-fault divorce has been a good thing. Gone are the days when someone wanting a divorce has had to lay the blame for the breakdown of the marriage upon their spouse.
And no-fault divorce has made the process of divorce much easier. It is no longer necessary to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down because of the other party's adultery, their unreasonable behaviour, two years' separation, etc. All that is required now is a simple statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
This increased simplicity, along with the recent introduction of online divorce, has led to more people deciding to do their own divorce, without the assistance of a solicitor.
Whilst there is nothing necessarily wrong with this (although there may still be circumstances where legal advice will be needed for the divorce), the idea that you can do everything yourself brings with it considerable risks.
Finances not included
Doing your own no-fault divorce online only deals with the dissolution of the marriage. But there can be much more than that to getting divorced. In particular, there is the matter of the financial settlement.
When you apply for a divorce you tell the court whether you want to apply for a financial order. However, that is all you are doing. You are not actually making the application, and the court will take no action until you do.
And it is quite possible to finalise the divorce without sorting out financial arrangements, although as we will see in a moment, this is not to be recommended.
However, if you think that you have done everything once you've got your final divorce order, you would be quite wrong.
Advice is essential
But the risk of doing your own divorce is not just about believing that everything is sorted out. There is also the trap of thinking that if you can deal with the divorce yourself, you can also sort out financial arrangements yourself. After all, how hard can it be?
The answer to that is that it can be very hard, even in apparently straightforward cases.
There are many misconceptions about how finances are sorted out on divorce, and especially about what anyone might be entitled to in a financial settlement.
There are also many pitfalls for the unwary.
Take that situation where the divorce has been finalised before finances have been sorted out. In allowing this to happen, a person could be risking substantial financial loss.
For example, it could mean them losing a potential benefit under their spouse's pension, as a pension scheme will often provide that if the pension holder dies then their spouse should benefit from the pension, but that benefit will obviously be lost if they are no longer the pension holder's spouse. The way to prevent this is of course to sort out pensions before the divorce is finalised.
But sorting out pensions can be extremely complex. No one should attempt it without proper legal and financial advice.
And sorting out pensions is only one part of the financial settlement.
And then there is the small matter of knowing what you are entitled to in the settlement. Many people believe that it is simply a matter of dividing everything equally, but that is not always appropriate.
And of course to know what you are entitled to requires that you know what financial assets your spouse has. What if they refuse to tell you, or are hiding something? What do you do then?
In short, it is absolutely essential that you take proper legal advice regarding the financial settlement, before you get divorced, as failing to do so runs considerable risks, including that you may be missing out on your entitlement.
Tempting as it may be to save the cost of legal advice, the cost of not doing so could be far higher.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.