DIY Divorces: the Health Warning
The legal aid reforms which took effect in the UK earlier this year have led to a number of individuals choosing to become ‘litigants in person’ as they cannot afford legal representation and are no longer entitled to legally aided representation. As a result, alternative routes to settlement out of court are increasingly popular. Indeed recent reports have estimated that as many as one in five divorcing couples in the UK in the next year will initiate their divorce proceedings online. Such couples will save on legal fees but resolving how family assets should be divided and how children should be provided for without expert legal guidance will inevitably lead to injustice for some.
The cheapest option is for parties to talk to one another, with legal representatives on hand to provide guidance and draft the necessary documentation once agreement has been reached. Where the playing field is level and both parties are committed to achieving an honest and fair outcome, this form of assisted negotiation is extremely effective in limiting emotional and financial costs. However, direct negotiation is not always viable or appropriate. Some marital breakdowns are simply too acrimonious, and in others one party may seek to coerce or bully the other or benefit from the informal nature of the discussions by being less than honest about the assets available for division. So what other options are there?