Posted by The Family Law Company on 24th September 2012

The Co-operative supermarket chain, announced last week that it was launching a range of “family law products”, to include DIY divorce packages starting at £99 as well as prenuptial agreements and cohabitation agreements.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, in fact there are a number of law firms across the country that offer cheap, fixed-fee or no-fee divorce packages. Many of these packages including the Co-operatives’ cheapest solution, which works out to £503.50 including VAT and court fees, simply provide you with a step-by-step guide to administering your own divorce along with all of the forms that you will need to make it legally binding. For an additional fee you are, in most cases, also able to pay to have your documents checked by a legal professional or make individual appointments to discuss your case with a solicitor.

I am sure that, at first glance, this seems like a fantastic proposition, and if you are in a position where you have no children, no money, no assets (properties), no businesses and the break-up is amicable then this may indeed be a cost effective way for you to process your divorce.

However as a seasoned family lawyer, having dealt with more than 1,000 divorces, one thing has become abundantly clear to me- no divorce is ever the same. Everybody is different, our personal circumstances vary greatly and we all manage different situations in our own ways. It is therefore very difficult to make a ‘one-size-fits-all’ divorce solution work effectively. That principle is at the core of the many pitfalls that I can see with such packages.

The Pitfalls:

  1. You and your family may have unique and specific needs that exclude you from being able to utilise the fixed fee model.
  2. You may need access to a plethora of other services including:
    1. Mediation
    2. Counselling
    3. Child psychologist
    4. Debt advice
    5. Independent financial advice
    6. Actuarial advice (Pensions advice)
    7. Valuation advice
    8. Business/corporate advice
    9. Probate/wills advice

Proceeding with an online/DIY divorce without meeting with a solicitor to discuss your circumstances, could have a knock on effect that seriously impacts yours and your children’s lives in the future. At Hartnell Chanot & Partners we offer a FREE Initial Interview, to help you understand what services you are likely to need for your individual case.

  1. The Co-op pledges a transparent pricing structure and “no nasty surprises” ,while admirable and attractive to potential consumers, the prices quoted are likely to be blown out of the water once the additional hours of support are taken into account in more complicated cases.
  2. Having managed your own divorce, you may find out at a later date that an agreement you reached or a decision that you made has put you at a disadvantage. It may then be very costly, time consuming or even impossible to put this right.
  3. There is no percentage split or formulaic approach to divorce settlement in English Law. Determining a fair solution can be a very complex exercise that examines a number of factors particularly where children are concerned or where one party earns or has contributed more over the course of the relationship.
  4. There is a common misconception that once you divorce all opportunity for financial claims cease. This is in-fact not the case and you could end up facing a financial claim by your spouse years down the line against assets, income and pension provision that you had at the time or income, assets and pensions acquired after separation and divorce unless all matters are resolved in a legally binding manner.
  5. The paperwork associated with divorce, if you don’t fill it out on a regular basis, can be a very challenging process. At the core of this documentation is the Form E, a 29 page nightmare that can, depending on your circumstances, require hundreds of supporting documents.

If you really need to save money and you are set on DIY divorce the same forms that you are likely to get from the Co-op or any of the other DIY packages are available for FREE here www.courtservice.gov.uk and the Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to assist you with any queries or individual advice.

The reality is that a specialist family solicitor may be able to save you a significant amount of money in the long run. They will also be able to look at your situation and provide advice and guidance that is tailored to you, helping you to achieve the best possible outcome. At Hartnell Chanot & Partners we can provide a clear up-front personalised quote, before any work is carried out.

Whatever your circumstances, make sure that you choose a solution that helps you resolve these important, life changing issues completely and effectively so that you and your family can move on with your lives without any lingering stress or anguish.

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