A Do-It-Yourself divorce can be the ideal solution for some couples wishing to formally terminate their marriage. The process is cheap, in comparison to a divorce performed in court, and eliminates the need for long and sometimes emotional discussions.
DIY divorce is not available to everyone. It is worth considering whether the following applies to your divorce before beginning this process:
- Grounds for divorce must be clear and proven, and uncontested by the respondent
- DIY divorce is not available where children under the age of16 are involved
- There must be no disputes outstanding regarding division of matrimonial assets
- Both partners must be clearly mentally capable of managing their own affairs and therefore the divorce proceedings
- Ending the marriage in this way does not enable either party to remarry, owing to religious faith restrictions - this may be the case for Jewish persons
It is a good idea to consult legal advice regarding any matrimonial financial matters, as it is often the case that once the decree absolute has been issued these arrangements cannot be changed.
As discussed above, DIY divorce is only suitable where both parties agree that divorce is necessary, and the decision is accepted as final.
Once the petition has been raised to the court, a copy will be issued to the respondent to enable them to object to the divorce. If this happens, the DIY process will come to an end and court proceedings will need to be initiated.Financial matters in a DIY divorce
Financial matters must be settled before applying for a DIY divorce. Cases which require legal work to establish maintenance payments or settlements are not suitable for this simplified process.
It may be, however, that you have both decided to make a clean break, or that you have been lucky enough to reach an amicable and voluntary agreement. Should the situation change after the divorce, it may be possible to obtain maintenance with the help of a lawyer.Grounds acceptable for a DIY divorce
Grounds which can be given as reason of irretrievable breakdown, in England and Wales, are separation of one and two years.
Satisfactory statements should be contained in the petition to the court. They must explain that both parties agree that there is no possibility of any kind of reconciliation, which may enable you to resume a normal partnership.
In some cases, to ease proceedings, the court may request additional evidence to confirm the facts of the petition. This will be taken from a witness, who will be requested to sign legal documentation, called an affidavit, in the presence of a member of the legal system able to verify such things.
Once all this has been completed and the respondent has returned all the forms not contesting the application the petition is then left with the court to decide the outcome.
An answer is received generally in four to six weeks, and if successful is marked with the issue of an 'Extract Decree of Divorce', which is sent back to the petitioner along with their submitted marriage certificate.
As mentioned before, the cost of a DIY divorce is significantly cheaper than going through the courts. A guide price for costs payable to the court is set at around £62 in England and Wales, and £90 in Scotland. You may incur other costs where copies of the marriage certificate are required. The costs are payable by the petitioner, however if the petitioner is on state benefits it may be possible to claim the court fees from 'Legal Aid Assistance'.
The situation in Northern Ireland differs slightly. A petition for divorce can only be raised after two years into the marriage. You approach the Northern Ireland Court Service in person, by telephone or letter, expressing the wish to act as a 'personal petitioner', that you do not wish a solicitor to raise the petition for you.
You must then gather all the required paperwork together, and undergo an interview at the Court Service. All the papers will be checked, suitability of the DIY process verified and the fee is to be paid. Following this the process is the same as the rest of the UK. The fees are much higher in Northern Ireland, with the price of submitting a petition the county court at £150.
And so, it can be said that Do-It-Yourself divorce is certainly an option in all areas of the UK. Fees do differ in the different regions, and some courts may require more input before they make their decision to issue the divorce certificate. It cannot be denied that without the court's involvement the whole process will be cheaper, and will be over in a relatively short period of time.
Where one and two year separations have occurred, the courts are usually fairly happy to process the applications. It has to be hoped by the petitioner that, whatever the reason for the separation, no hard feelings are still felt. Separation may have been the direction in which it was decided the relationship would go a year ago, but for the respondent it may have been with the intention of the separation being temporary time-out. When the actual matter of divorce rears its ugly head old wounds may be reopened, and the hurt may come flooding back.
Discussions may lead the petitioner to believe that a DIY divorce may be successful, and the best route to take, the issue of the approval for divorce may be simply too much for the respondent. They may decide at this point that further blame must be attributed to someone, for the breakdown of the marriage.
In this case it is likely that the petition will be contested, and the DIY divorce proceedings will be halted. As the petitioner it is worth spending the time to try and establish whether this is likely to happen. If this is the outcome you will have wasted a number of weeks and an amount of money, as well as time and effort, only to find yourself back where you started.
Here are additional resources you might be interested in:
How much does it Cost to Hire a Divorce Lawyer in UK?
Is the Divorce Rate Increasing in the UK?
Divorce Statistics in the UK
Are you considering getting a divorce? There's an excellent ebook about deciding whether to Get a Divorce or Stay In the Relationship
. Every couple should read this before making the decision.
If you're on the verge of having a divorce, read this to Save Your Marriage