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Do It Yourself Divorce

DIY divorce

Considerations when representing yourself in Family Law Disputes

There is a saying in legal circles that a person who represents themselves in legal proceedings “has a fool for a client”. Whilst this is perhaps a little flippant and harsh, I would recommend that anyone considering representing themselves in divorce without a family lawyer does so with their eyes wide open.

Can I Represent Myself Without a Family Lawyer?

The short answer is yes you can. And a lot of people choose to do so.

This can be for a number of reasons, but I suspect the primary reason is the cost of legal representation. Public funding or Legal Aid is only available for a small minority of people and so for most, if they want to be represented by a family lawyer then they will have to pay for this themselves.

Communicating With Your Ex-Partner’s Solicitor or the Court

If somebody choses to represent themselves in a family law dispute, then the other party may well not adopt the same approach and may instruct a legal representative such as a solicitor or a barrister to handle their case. In that situation the person representing themselves will be required to communicate, primarily in written correspondence, with their former partner’s lawyer.

Whilst there is a guidance and obligations on lawyers when corresponding with lay individuals to ensure that the tone and content of the correspondence is clear and straightforward, you must be alive to the fact that you will be exchanging emails or letters with potentially a very experienced lawyer.

In addition to corresponding with a lawyer, you may also be required, if family court proceeding are issued, to write to the family court.

Legal Terminology

Whilst the Government and Law Society have taken steps to bring the quite historic language and terminology often seen in family law into a more modern context there remains quite a few examples of where legal terminology could cause confusion for a lay client.

Specifically in family law matters the language and terminology has changed somewhat. For example, the decree nisi of divorce is now known as the conditional order and the decree absolute as the final divorce order.

That said, there remains numerous examples where legal terminology could cause confusion.

It is, of course, the case that a qualified lawyer would be very familiar with such terminology which could put them at an advantage.

Navigating Court Proceedings and Hearings

In family law disputes where an alternative dispute resolution method has not been successful, it may be necessary for the family court to become involved to resolve the dispute.

This will require the parties to attend court and appear before a judge whether that be a magistrate, a district judge or indeed a circuit judge. There are certain rules of etiquette when appearing in court that must be adhered to.

Whilst judges have become more skilled at dealing with cases where one party may not have a legal representative with them, the rules of the court and the particular hearing still apply whether you are legally represented or not. One might find it very stressful, intimidating and overwhelming to have to appear before a judge especially if against a lawyer or barrister in court and present your case coherently and robustly.

This can, in my experience, see the legally represented party have a considerable advantage over the unrepresented party.

Compliance with Court Orders

It is often the case that there are deadlines imposed by the court for various tasks to be undertaken by certain dates. This could involve a date for filing a financial disclosure form, submitting a narrative statement or submitting details with regard to costs incurred.

Court deadlines are important and must be adhered to as failure to do so could lead to sanctions and difficulties and potentially weaken your case. A party who does not engage a lawyer could find themselves in a situation where they are struggling to meet deadlines, or they may not have access to the relevant documentation that a solicitor may well have.

Divorce Tactics and Strategy

In most family law disputes, there is a lot riding on the outcome whether the dispute is over how the financial assets of the relationship should be shared or if it’s a dispute over child arrangements.

There can be a lot of tactics involved in trying to negotiate and settle a case. An experienced family law solicitor will be well placed to provide advice on strategy and tactics which is likely to put their client in a more advantageous position than the person who does not have legal representation.

Also family law disputes can often be very emotionally challenging for the parties. A family lawyer will try and remain detached from any emotion and instead try their best to achieve the most favourable outcome for their client. If you are representing yourself, it might be more difficult to keep focused on the desired outcome whilst at the same time managing to keep the emotion out of your thinking.

Maguire Family Law offer a no-obligation consultation where you can take advice on options in your particular situation. Whether your situation involves divorce, finances, children or interational aspects of relationship breakdown we will offer advice and estimates of any costs involved. You can then decide if you wish to proceed or not.

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: or telephone:

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