There is no legal requirement to instruct a Solicitor to act on your behalf in respect of Divorce proceedings.
However, for reasons set out below, particularly in respect of the finances of a marriage, it is important that legal advice is sought as early as possible which is tailored to your own personal circumstances to ensure you are clear in respect of your rights and legal duties.
Can I get a divorce online?
In recent years the Court has launched an online portal that enables parties to deal with their own Divorce proceedings online. This has made it far easier, and indeed quicker, for the Divorce proceedings to progress. It is therefore now far more straightforward to issue your own Divorce proceedings through the Court service website, without the assistance of a Solicitor.
The New No Fault Divorce Law (April 2022)
The Court’s streamlined online process works for many and particularly with the imminent ‘no fault’ Divorce coming into force in April 2022, it is expected that the process will likely be even more accessible to those not wishing to instruct a Solicitor in respect of the divorce element of formalising their separation.
Pros of a solicitor with a No Fault Divorce
It is however important to keep in mind that a Solicitor who is experienced in the Divorce process will be able to deal with matters far more efficiently and quickly than one who is completing the process for the first time and during a time where they are dealing with the emotional impact of a separation.
At Mayo Wynne Baxter, we always encourage clients to look into the Court portal and Divorce process themselves in the first instance when deciding whether they feel they require assistance from a Solicitor to deal with matters on their behalf.
What the new law means for separating spouses
The new ‘no fault’ Divorce law which is due to be implemented in April 2022 will provide a complete overhaul of the current system for obtaining a Divorce; however, it will not affect the finances of a marriage/civil partnership. It will therefore remain just as important to obtain advice in respect of your rights and legal obligations concerning the finances of the marriage.
Protecting your Finances
Whilst the Divorce process is straightforward and can be undertaken by parties acting ‘in person’, simply obtaining your Decree Absolute (soon to be known as a ‘Final Order’) to formally dissolve your marriage or civil partnership will not deal with the dismissal of your legal obligations to one another. It is therefore imperative that alongside any Divorce proceedings, whether it be now, or following the new law being implemented in April 2022, that the finances of the marriage are dealt with formally by way of a Consent Order, or Financial Remedy Order, to ensure that your respective financial claims against one another are formally reviewed and dismissed, if appropriate.
What is a Consent Order/Financial Remedy Order?
A Consent Order/Financial Remedy Order is a document that requires careful consideration and needs to be carefully drafted in order to be tailored to your specific circumstances and ensure it meets with your understanding of any agreements reached. The Court’s online portal cannot assist with the drafting of such a document, and it is important that the Consent order is tailored to your specific circumstances. Where one has a limited budget, it is important to consider focussing that budget on obtaining advice in respect of your potential legal rights, and the drafting of a Consent Order.
Pros of a solicitor when obtaining Consent Order/Financial Remedy Order
It is always important to obtain legal advice in respect of the division of the finances of the marriage as there is no substitute for legal advice that is tailored to your own personal situation; an agreement appropriate in one set of circumstances will not be so for another.
Further, in England and Wales, we have a discretionary system, there is no prescriptive formula that can be used to determine the division of the financials of the marriage. A solicitor will provide advice which is tailored to your own personal circumstances and based upon their experience, taking into account precedents which have been set by recent cases and legislation. It is, therefore, useful to obtain legal advice at an early stage when considering the division of the finances, to ensure that you have a realistic understanding in respect of how your finances may be resolved.
Achieving an agreement with Mediation
Following the obtaining of initial advice many clients then choose to attend mediation with their spouse, in order to assist with negotiations. It can therefore be useful to have a Solicitor in the background to provide advice when required.
Once an agreement is reached it is important that a Solicitor drafts this on behalf of one party to ensure that it is drafted correctly and dismisses your respective claims where appropriate. Where the Consent Order has been drafted by your spouse or civil partner’s Solicitor it is important to obtain legal advice in respect of the content of that Order, to ensure that the Order reflects the agreements as you understand them to be.
At Mayo Wynne Baxter we have specialist Family Solicitors who will provide tailored advice based upon your requirements, whether it be an initial consultation with ad hoc advice whilst you are attempting mediation, or to assist you with undertaking negotiations directly with your spouse or civil partner.