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Can I represent myself during a divorce?

In short, the answer is “yes”.

You can deal with the case yourself and for most the reason is to save divorce costs.

When I say “case’ there are usually three core issues to a family law case:

– The divorce itself

– The financial settlement

– The children

The relevance, importance or complexity really depends on the individual circumstances of the separation and divorce.

For some, it is not just because they want to save legal costs, it’s because they cannot afford legal costs. There are to be significant changes to legal aid from 1 April 2013; and more and more people will find themselves having to deal with the divorce themselves.

With the divorce court’s permission you can ask someone to help in court. This is called a “MacKenzie friend” but they cannot speak for you or interfere with any hearing.

Inevitably, there will be an increasing culture of DIY divorces.

The difficulty for someone acting for themselves is that they do not have someone to independently advise them. A concern I would have is that a litigant in person in a divorce might pursue a bad, if not, hopeless case; and in a family law situation this could have significant and negative consequences.

Some questions to consider before taking legal action are:

– Stepping back as best you can, are my prospects for success good?

– Is it worth the time and potential divorce costs

– Even if I’m successful, does the other party have the means to pay

– Have I done everything to avoid divorce proceedings?

A divorce itself is a relatively straightforward procedure but here I am talking about the more substantive issues relating to the finances and any child.

Proportionality is the key, particularly in terms of time and costs; as well as trying to perform a cost/risk benefit analysis ie. do the potential costs outweigh the benefits?

Of course, this is difficult to judge where there are children involved. Emotions can also cloud judgment; and family or friends are not always independent or impartial.

What more people want in my experience is a resolution. They do not want aggression, hostility, delay and expensive divorce costs.

Everyone can blame the other; and the divorce lawyers can blame each other: communication breaks down and then the case usually heads towards the family law court and for a judge, who has never met the parties, to make a decision after a number of hearings. It often takes a stronger person to step back and see what has gone wrong and how best the issues in the case can be resolved.

I am not saying for a moment that person is a family law solicitor. It is often one or both of the parties themselves who realise this. A divorce lawyer can help you but no-one has a magic wand.

Judge what is at stake and is it worth paying for some (or even limited) family law advice?

If you have divorce lawyer, it is important you can work with them and as part of the team; to look at the relevant legal issues and to take each step with advice and proportionality; and always ask about costs.

If you do not, then consider whether you can request for a free initial family law appointment; and/or to take advice or review your case with a divorce lawyer at relevant stages and to perform almost a sanity check. You might be missing something quite obvious!

And think, “Am I better with a divorce lawyer by my side or not?”

Maguire Family Law is a specialist firm of Family Law and Divorce Law solicitors based in Wilmslow, Cheshire. We offer legal advice to parties going through a divorce including the financial issues which flow from this and children matters including child maintenance.

We can also advise on Schedule1 Children Act 1989 applications.

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: james.maguire@family-law.co.uk or telephone:

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