Why failing to obtain good quality legal advice on divorce may be a false economy and leave you unable to secure your fair share of the assets of the marriage.

There are quite a number of decisions to be made when your marriage or civil partnership comes to an end, one of those being whether to obtain legal advice to help you through the process, and if so, from whom.

There are many different options as to the type and quality of legal advice available to separating spouses or civil partners, and it can be difficult to know where to start when trying to identify a suitably qualified legal advisor.

What is certain though, is that you could be misguided to rely on advice from a friend or neighbour for example, even if they have been through the divorce process themselves, unless of course they are appropriately legally qualified. When it comes to dealing with the finances or a divorce or dissolution, every case is different, and therefore a friend’s experience about how things were dealt with in their case, is unlikely to be the same as the outcome in respect of your own situation.

There is no standard formula which dictates how finances should be divided and the outcome is different in every case. If the family court is required to determine matters, it looks at a whole list of factors which includes the length of the marriage, the ages of the parties, their needs and responsibilities and what the available resources are or are likely to be.

Often, when there is a separation, one or both people (called “parties”) are under significant financial pressure, and this can lead to a decision by one or both parties to deal with the divorce process and the related financial issues as cheaply as possible. Parties can go online and find a cheap divorce provider, who gives little if any legal advice about financial matters, and this is often referred to as a ‘quickie divorce’. This is rarely likely to be a safe and sensible option if you want to ensure you achieve a fair outcome when sorting out the matrimonial finances and also protect yourself financially for the future.

Whilst a ‘quickie divorce’ may provide you with a final order bringing the marriage/civil partnership to an end, this does not end the ability each party has to make financial claims against the other’s income, capital or pensions. To achieve this, you need to obtain a separate financial ‘clean break’ consent order.

Without a clean break order, at any point in the future, your ex-husband, ex-wife or ex-civil partner may be able to pursue financial claims against your income, capital and pension provision. By then, your assets may have grown to be more valuable e.g the value of your property or pension may have increased, and those now more valuable assets may be vulnerable to your ex-husband or ex-wife’s claims. It is therefore important that you instruct a specialist family lawyer to assist you in obtaining the protection of a clean break consent order at the time of the divorce proceedings.

If you do want to save costs when getting divorced, since the divorce process is now relatively straightforward since the introduction of no-fault divorce in April 2022, you may wish to submit the online court divorce application yourself. When it comes to financial matters however, whether you or your spouse have any assets or not, you should ensure you seek early advice from a specialist family lawyer, ensuring they are regulated by the SRA, and preferably a member of Resolution. This is because it is in relation to financial matters that the pitfalls can really arise if competent legal advice is not obtained. On rare occasions this could be to the point where damage is done and cannot be corrected at all, or certainly not easily.

Pitfalls include losing pension rights if you finalise the divorce and then your former spouse dies before you have dealt with the finances including any pension claims, or you find that you are prohibited from pursuing some of your financial claims against your former spouse because you have re-married before you have made an application to the court in respect of those claims. A divorce or remarriage could mean a party loses some or all of the ability to explore securing a share of assets arising from the marriage.

So, by all means, if you wish to limit legal costs by initiating the divorce proceedings yourself on the online court portal please do, but we urge you all to ensure you invest in specialist advice from a suitably qualified solicitor or legal executive with experience in financial matters, before you, or your spouse apply for the final order in the divorce and therefore before you may prejudice your position irreparably.

If you have any queries regarding this article, please get in touch with the Family Team and we would be happy to assist you.

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