You get what you pay for: the cost of DIY divorce
We have all heard of the saying “you get what you pay for” but how relevant is this with divorce?
Legal aid as almost all but gone and this has seen a significant rise in the amount of people starting their own DIY divorce. Invariably this will be to save on legal costs (although the court fee is still payable unless an exemption applies). But does this come at a hidden cost?
The President of the Family Division has even suggested that the divorcing couples should cut their ties with the court; and for this process to be more of an administrative one.
This might, however, be seen a political hot potato as many may feel this would make marriage too disposable and easy to get out of.
In my view a divorce is not a tick box exercise. You are dealing with people’s lives and it is a deeply personal and traumatic experience.
Clients need to consider a divorce very carefully: is it the right time to actually start a divorce or alternatively is there a real pressure of time?
Cheap and easy online divorces are fine but are there any pitfalls:
- Have jurisdictional issues in an international case been properly considered?
- Have the proper financial claims been made?
- What about the re-marriage trap (where someone divorces, remarries but before making a financial claim)?
This is just to mention a few examples but there may be other issues or problems concerning children, pensions and finances generally. The divorce itself will be painting by numbers: a step by step process. Yes, this can be done easily and cheaply but it is not until years later that the gaps can be seen and the true impact seen.
The recent case in the Supreme Court of Vince v Wyatt is a good example. Here, the parties separated and divorce but almost 20 years later Mrs Wyatt came back to court to make a financial application and the Court has confirmed that she is allowed to do so. I blogged about this topic which can be seen here.
I am all for technology and looking at ways of driving down legal costs. But like most things in life, as well as getting what you pay for, there is a happy medium. With this, clients need to remain at the heart of any professional service. Arguably, had Mr Vince and Ms Wyatt simply agreed to a financial order back in the day that there financial claims are clean broken then they would not be fighting over his £107m wealth some 20 years later: a stitch in time saves nine.
We are not, however, involved in a purely administrative process. Each client’s case is different from the next; and the legal issues need to be looked at properly and resolved. There are plenty of situations where people don’t do this and I understand the reasons for this: to save divorce costs. But do they fall into the Vince v Wyatt trap of not dismissing all financial claims? There are many people who find themselves in a situation years later of having to come back to court to sort out the finances and/or pay more money; and this is actually where it starts to get expensive.
You get what you pay for: a cheap divorce can result in expensive mistakes; not to mention the stress, anxiety and time/cost to resolve them. People are right to check and challenge legal costs but also to look at the protection and value that can be added.