Getting a divorce is not an easy decision to make: It can take months or even years to finally decide to end your marriage. Having agonised over the actual decision itself, the idea of having to wait over a year to be officially ‘free’ of your partner may seem excessive or even abhorrent. .
In 2014/15, the Government opened 11 newly created Divorce Centres. These centres and not the Law Courts now deal with the vast majority of uncontested divorce cases within England and Wales.
Despite promises of efficiency and transparency, the standard process of divorce is now taking up to twice as long under this new initiative. These delays have been acknowledged by some Divorce Centres and ‘recovery’ plans to deal with the backlog have now been put in place.
But for those who do not want to or cannot wait for such plans to speed up the traditional procedure for divorce to come to fruition, are there other options?
You could always enjoy a ‘quickie’… Divorce that is (I know what you were thinking).
Google a ‘Quickie’
Run a search for ‘quickie divorce’ through Google and you will retrieve hundreds of results, with an abundance of websites advertising how they can have your divorce finalised within weeks. Divorce companies offering a quick, cheap divorce are to traditional family law practices what EasyJet is to British Airways.
But are they any good? Can they really offer a quick solution to such a complicated situation such as marriage, especially if children and/or substantial financial assets are involved?
The ‘Quickie’ Divorce Procedure
In any divorce there are three main steps which must be taken to end a marriage.
Step 1 – file a divorce petition
Step 2 – apply for a decree nisi
Step 3 – apply for a decree absolute
There are two reasons why so-called ‘quick’ divorces can speed through this process:
- You fill in all the forms yourself or with guidance from the company or the company will fill in the documents for you; and
- Both you and your spouse will receive little, if any advice on matters concerning arrangements for any children you have together and how to split your assets and property fairly.
And herein lies the danger associated with a quick, cheap divorce. How does a couple know, without receiving professional legal advice, whether they are walking away from their marriage with what they deserve?
Financial Settlements – Your Future at Stake
When you leave your marriage, you may want to be ‘nice’ to your spouse, especially if the reason for the break up stemmed from the result of your actions, (i.e. you had an affair). However, if you have been married for a long time and you and your spouse have accumulated significant assets, property and pensions together, not getting proper legal advice could lead to you making one of the biggest mistakes of your life.
Even if you believe your financial situation is relatively straight-forward; i.e. you own a home which you plan to sell and split the profits, you have a pension each and a little in savings, failure to obtain advice from a solicitor could see you in financial dire straits a few years after the divorce has gone through.
Especially if you are a woman.
According to research carried out by Professor Stephen Jenkins of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and chair of the Council of the International Association for Research on Income and Wealth, when a man divorces in the UK, his income rises by a third. In contrast, a woman’s income, regardless of whether or not she is a mother, falls by a fifth, and remains low for many years.
A lawyer will advise you on the different options available to you in a divorce situation, such as possibly obtaining an occupation order so you and your children can remain living in the family home, or your the chances of receiving spousal and child maintenance.
Although parties are no longer required to provide a Statement of Arrangements for Children when applying for a divorce, if arrangements for children are not formalised, there is a chance that you will be meeting your ex-spouse in court at a later date, because ad-hoc childcare agreements have a habit of falling apart if one of the parent’s life changes in some way. One of the biggest causes of strife is when someone meets a new partner. If you have a formal, well-negotiated agreement in place that allows for this and other changes of circumstances, you will have a solid foundation from which to base arrangements for your children, thus providing them and yourselves with surety and stability.
What’s Cheap is Cheap
The cost of filing divorce papers is fixed at £550 (the time of writing) and there is no separate fee for the decree absolute. So although you can get the divorce papers and some guidance on how to fill them out for as little as £37, (as advertised by some organisations), you will still pay a minimum of £550 in total for your divorce.
However, without the advice of an experienced family solicitor, you may end up in a dispute with your partner years after your divorce was supposed to be ‘finalised’. For example, if you do not have a formal Financial Order drawn up and signed by both you and your ex-spouse, either one of you could make a claim on each other’s future earnings, long after the decree absolute was issued.
If you have property and assets together then it is likely to work out cheaper in the long run to invest in sound, solid legal advice. By doing so, you can avoid having to forever look over your shoulder if you receive a financial windfall in the future.
The reason ‘quickie’ divorces are quick is because you are not engaging a solicitor who will probe deeper into your needs, both present and future, to ensure that you are making decisions that will be in your best interests.
If you and your spouse have no children, little in the way of assets and your marriage was very brief, then a quick divorce may be a good option. However, for those whose lives are deeply intertwined with their spouses, both financially through shared assets and emotionally via children, spending a little extra time and money on an experienced solicitor will pay for itself in the long run.
After all, ‘quick’ does not always equate to satisfying.
Saracens Solicitors is a London based law firm with a large, experienced family law department. If you wish to talk further about any of the issues raised in this article, please feel free to call me on 020 3588 3500.
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