Can I get a DIY divorce without paying for a solicitor?

Unhappy married couple sitting at opposite ends of a sofa
15:00pm, Thu 04 Feb 2021
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The problem…

“Over the past 15 years or so, my husband and I have lived separate lives. We haven’t slept together, we hardly talk, and the only time we eat at the same table is when our children visit, which isn’t often. During lockdown, things became even more distant – we’ve both been working from home and, because of our schedules, rarely even see one another.

“It’s all made me realise that I have wasted too much time on bitterness and regret. What I should have been doing is making a new life for myself – I’d have been better off living on my own during this time, as at least I’d have been able to bubble with someone! I have decided, therefore, that we need to get a divorce.

Unhappy married couple

“I assume that, in view of my living circumstances, this shouldn’t be too difficult – not that I’ve spoken to my husband about it. The thing is though, other than the house we live in, neither of us has much money. I’m worried that the process will be expensive and I don’t know where we’d find the money to pay a solicitor, for example. Are DIY divorces possible, and if so, how does one go about it?”

Fiona says…

“I would normally be encouraging couples to consider counselling and giving their relationship one last chance but, after 15 years of living apart, together, it doesn’t sound like this would help.

“It is possible to ‘Do-It-Yourself’ with divorce, the Government website (gov.uk/divorce) has probably got all the information you need. Providing the divorce is straightforward and both partners can agree amicably about any assets – like your house, for example – then it shouldn’t be too costly.

You and your husband are going to need to talk at some point...

“Although you and your husband are out of practice at talking to one another, I do think you’re going to need to do this, however. You need to agree together how things will be divided up – will you want to sell the house you’re living in and both start afresh somewhere new? Will one of you want to retain the property and buy the other out? What about joint possessions – who will have what?

“The government website will link you to ‘Advice Now’ (advicenow.org.uk) which has a really helpful guide on financial settlements for divorcing couples. The aim of the guide is to help you understand what a judge might do in your case. If you can reach a fair agreement with one another, it could save you from having to go to court.

“You mention your children – presumably they are aware that the two of you have little to do with one another, but they might still be surprised at your decision to separate. I would encourage you to talk to them too, in case they have any input you want to consider.

“I’m sure you’re aware that there is all manner of grounds for divorce, but you can apply for a divorce if you’ve been separated for at least two years and you both agree to it. As you’re still living together in the same house, you will need to show that you’ve not been living together as a couple (for example, you sleep and eat apart). As part of the process, you will need to agree this in writing.

“If you and your husband cannot agree then you could consider using a mediator – and if money is an issue, you might be able to apply for Legal Aid. Another useful source of help and advice would you your local branch of Citizens Advice (citizensadvice.org.uk) which also has a very useful section on ending relationships. I hope things go smoothly for you and that you’re both able to move on to a happier life.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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