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New Divorce Rules – Do I need a solicitor?

by Ridley&Hall in Family & Matrimonial, Shelley Harper posted July 18, 2022.

According to Her Majesty Court and Tribunal Service 12,978 couples filed for divorce when the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 came into force in April 2022. This is an increase of nearly 35% from last year where the courts received 6,764 digital and 1,965 paper applications.

The new divorce rules also provide that couples can now divorce, or dissolve their civil partnership, using a joint application. Out of those 12,978 applications, 2,771 were joint. Given that the new rules allow for couples to divorce or dissolve their civil partnership on a more amicable basis, the new system being on a no-fault basis, out of all these applications, it is likely that some people have decided to represent themselves and proceed with the divorce/dissolution application “in person” ie without instructing a solicitor.

However, even if the parties do choose to represent themselves in the divorce/dissolution application it is still important to seek independent legal advice on the breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership. One of the main reasons being that the parties’ finances are not severed when a Final Order in the divorce/dissolution is obtained.

Many people do not realise that the ability to make financial claims because of the relationship, does not come to an end when the divorce is complete, and the Final Divorce/Dissolution Order made (previously known on divorce as Decree Absolute). Parties still need to seek a separate financial remedy order from the court to resolve finances. The divorce court will not do this unless and until a separate application is made in respect of financial matters.

Most often, the parties will obtain a ‘Clean Break Order’, this means that the parties will no longer be able to make financial claims against each other, or their estates on death, once this has been obtained.  Between January to March 2022, there were 10,815 financial remedy proceedings compared to 30,154 divorce petitions in the same period[1]. Therefore approximately 1 in 3 divorces did not have a financial remedy order, leaving those people vulnerable to a financial claim being made by their former spouse in the future. Ensuring that a financial order is obtained is now more important than ever as many individuals will acquire wealth as business owners, through inheritance and in some cases winning the lottery after divorce/dissolution. Not obtaining one leaves you vulnerable to claims as you get older and acquire more assets. This is important as it can affect retirement plans and any inheritance provision you may have made for your family. The courts have dealt with several cases where a party has issued financial remedy proceedings years later. Having to deal with this many years later can cause a financial burden of having to deal with financial proceedings, the stress of having to go through financial disclosure, negotiations of settlement, and corresponding with your ex-partner many years after your divorce/dissolution is far from ideal.

To ensure that the right to make a financial claim in the future is not lost, it is necessary to set out certain matters in the Divorce/Dissolution Application. Therefore, not instructing a solicitor to help may be a false economy.

Therefore, whilst the new divorce rules are a step in the right direction to allow for what is already a stressful and exhausting process, please do still seek the services of an experienced family law solicitor to ensure that you ensure everything relating to the breakdown of your relationship is resolved.

Our friendly and experienced team of family solicitors are on hand to advise you in respect of this. If you require assistance in relation to divorce, dissolution or any other family matter, contact a member of our Family Team on our freephone 0800 860 62 65

Shelley Harper

Shelley Harper – Solicitor

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/family-court-statistics-quarterly-january-to-march-2022/family-court-statistics-quarterly-january-to-march-2022

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