Applying for a ‘no fault’ divorce online – do I still need a solicitor?

20th April 2022

If you are looking to apply for divorce online, there are certain issues you need to consider. The recent reforms under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 introduced 'no fault' divorce as of 6 April 2022. The application is simplified and there is no requirement to blame your spouse for the relationship breakdown. Instead, confirmation of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is now the only ground for divorce (and only evidence) confirmed in the application. This makes the divorce application a lot more straightforward.

It remains user-friendly for litigants in person to apply for divorce, as this is done online. Does this mean that getting divorced is now just a simply form-filling exercise and do you need to instruct a solicitor at all?

Firstly, it is important to recognise the distinction between terminating the marriage (obtaining the final order in the divorce) and resolving the financial claims arising from the marriage (the financial remedies). Obtaining the final order does not dismiss your financial claims against one another, only an order of the Court made under a separate application can do this.

As such, a couple could be divorced but still have unresolved financial claims and the risk of an ex-spouse making financial claims in the future, even if they have informally divided their finances around the time of the final order.

This is so that you have a good understanding of the extent of the matrimonial finances and how these should be divided. There is a range of fair outcomes in the finances rather than one definitive answer and so expert solicitor knowledge of these means that you will understand the appropriate parameters of settlement for the negotiations and the merits of the terms that are agreed.

With the outcome of each case being dependent on the facts, a broad-brush 50/50 division of the capital may not be the right outcome and there needs to be careful consideration about how any children’s financial needs are met, as well as whether there should be a clean break or ongoing maintenance and whether there should be a pension sharing order and obtaining the right calculation for that.

Solicitors will help you to identify aspects of the finances where other professionals should provide their expertise, such as in tax calculations, surveyor’s reports, pensions reports or business valuations. Often, these instructions require careful consideration of the facts and the right questions being asked in order to achieve the right answers.

Solicitors will then help you by either leading the financial negotiations or explaining the appropriate range of outcomes for your own negotiations, such as discussions at mediation.

Crucially, once fair terms of settlement are agreed, solicitors will draft the terms of settlement as a Consent Order, to be filed at Court for judicial approval. Only then will the terms be binding and enforceable and future financial claims dismissed.

Although terminating the marriage itself is more straightforward, and there is now fortunately not any emphasis on who is to blame for marriage ending, it is still important for parties to take independent legal advice so that their financial position is properly considered, recorded and protected.

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