On anniversary of lockdown DIY divorces rise

On anniversary of lockdown DIY divorces rise

The 23rd March 2021 marks the first anniversary in which the UK went in to a national lockdown to begin its fightback against the coronavirus.

It’s a year that many of us would like to forget. There has been lots of uncertainty, juggling working from home, homeschooling and for some taking those tentative steps back into the office.

As a result of the pandemic and because people are spending more time at home, we’ve seen domestic abuse incident numbers increase and also the number of divorces increasing. We know that family law proffesionals have seen an increase in their workloads, but the last 12 months has also seen an increase in ‘DIY divorces’.

Research conducted by Wilsons, revealed that 58% of all divorces in 2019/20 saw neither party appoint a lawyer, this rocketed up by almost half compared from the previous year (46% in 2018/19).

Analysing the data they received the firm believe that those who have been financially disadvantaged because of the pandemic may look to representing themselves in court as a way to save money. This results in many clients not finalising the financial settlement in court. Lockdown has also led to all but the most urgent court hearings being delayed, prompting many to take matters into their own hands in the hopes of arriving at a resolution faster.

Wilsons says that despite the attraction of saving money through not being represented by a solicitor, these divorces could end up costing far more if the financial settlement is later challenged in court.

Divorces that have been undertaken with little or no legal advice can potentially be reopened decades later.  For example, a green energy tycoon who built up a £100m fortune after his marriage ended was ordered by the Supreme Court to pay his ex-wife £300,000 decades after their divorce. At the time of their separation neither party had considerable assets so they did not bother to agree to waive the right to pursue claims against each other in the future. This allowed the ex-wife to sue for a more favourable settlement following her former husband’s change in fortune 19 years later!

Graham Coy, Partner at Wilsons says:

“DIY divorces are becoming increasingly commonplace but they don’t guarantee a quick and easy resolution.

“It may seem disingenuous for a lawyer to argue that couples need legal advice but a DIY divorce could end up costing far more in the long-term if the settlement is later challenged in court by either party who subsequently feel hard done by.”

“If it was a relatively short marriage and there aren’t many assets to split, a DIY divorce could be an option. However, when assets such as properties, businesses, pensions and investments are involved it’s important to seek professional advice. This is even more crucial if children are in the picture.”

“Both parties should have a solicitor representing their best interests to ensure the division of assets is equitable and therefore cannot be later challenged by an ex in court.”

“Mediation with a solicitor offers a more affordable alternative to court proceedings and cases are resolved within a shorter timeframe.”

Want to have your say? Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more stories

Join nearly 3,000 other family practitioners - Check back daily for all the latest news, views, insights and best practice and sign up to our e-newsletter to receive our weekly round up every Thursday morning. 

You’ll receive the latest updates, analysis, and best practice straight to your inbox.