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Lawyer Issues DIY Divorce Warning

Separating couples who try to save money by using the Government DIY services to divorce could face significant financial problems in the future, a leading family law specialist at ORJ has warned.

Jackie Meredith, our Head of Family Department, has welcomed the introduction of the online divorce tool and no-fault divorce procedure – but she is concerned by the lack of resolution when it comes to financial matters.

“I support streamlining the process by allowing people to divorce online and the introduction of no-fault divorce was an important step,” said Jackie.

The no-fault divorce procedure, which was introduced in April 2022, means divorcees no longer need to apportion blame for the breakdown of the marriage and, with the Government website, separating couples can currently formalise their divorce online for a fee of £593.

“But I am really concerned that many people receive the Final Order confirming their legal divorce, which ends their marriage, and think all is sorted,” said Jackie. “This is far from the truth.”

Once the divorce procedure has reached Conditional Order stage, the Government website does encourage people to sort out their finances but many do not realise that without getting a financial settlement approved by the Court, they are leaving themselves wide open to an ex-spouse making a claim years down the line.

Financial claims survive the divorce and so, without a formal settlement, the divorced couple remain financially linked where one partner could make an application in respect of the other’s assets or pension in a decade’s time.

Jackie said: “I have had people wanting to resolve their finances five, 10 and even 15 years after the divorce, in which time the other person may have inherited money or incurred thousands of pounds in debt. This is only going to happen more often with the new procedure.

“In an amicable situation especially, it is easy to believe the other person would never make a claim on your assets but this is a huge risk and things can change, like one person remarrying.

“If you want full closure on a relationship, you need to make sure all aspects of the separation are sorted so those involved can move on.”

Jackie also cautioned that, with very limited exceptions, people lose the right to make financial claims if they remarry without settling on a previous marriage.

“You might think you are avoiding conflict by not taking legal advice with your finances – but it could end up causing more damage in the future,” she said.

Changes to the law have shown an increasing number of people are taking the divorce process into their own hands through the online service. However, as Jackie warned, it is important to remember finances need to be dealt with at the same time and legal advice should be sought.

With offices in Telford, Stafford and Shrewsbury, we are a leading law firm offering services across business, property and family.