Wednesday, January 07, 2009

DIY Divorce: A Good Idea?

Jo Spain of the Family Law Matters blog has written a post warning of the dangers of doing your own divorce rather than instructing a solicitor. As a practising divorce solicitor and author of a book on how to do your own divorce I do, of course, sit on both sides of the fence on this one. There are a number of issues, and the following spring to mind:
  • Jo concedes that doing your own divorce may be appropriate where matters are agreed. Whilst this is true, I'm believe that many people are quite capable of dealing with their divorce where matters are not agreed.
  • Of course, there are circumstances where representing yourself is clearly inappropriate - I point out a number of such circumstances in my book, for example drafting a consent order to give effect to an agreed financial/property settlement, a point made by Jo.
  • I believe that a book like mine can be useful for information, even if you have solicitor - the cost of the book is less than the cost of one telephone call to your solicitor.
  • As Jo points out, you can obtain forms from the court or the Courts Service website, but these do not necessarily include all documents you might need, and the explanatory notes are limited.
  • Jo makes the point that doing your own divorce can be time consuming and confusing. I'm sure this can be true, but my book is concise, and written in a language designed to be understood by any reasonably intelligent person. It also includes a comprehensive glossary of legal terms.
  • Finally, many people are not eligible for legal aid and simply cannot afford a solicitor, irrespective of whether it best for them to instruct one - in the end, it's about providing options, particularly for people whose options are limited.


  1. John, I take it she hasn't read your book then!

    I had to laugh when she said:
    First of all you can obtain all of the divorce forms and guidance notes free from the Court office. Are you being charged for something you can get for free?

    Don't tell me that any Solicitor will send you the forms and not charge an arm and a leg for the privilege.

    She will do herself out of business if she carries on talking like that.

    Hope business picks up for you this year John.


  2. Thanks Swizz - I'm working on it...

  3. I think I might buy your book - I have started to write one but baby got in the way - bet our styles are v different though!!!!

  4. Excellent! Look forward to reading yours.

    [Check your email]

  5. Hi John,

    It was interesting reading your blog re my post on DIY Divorce! I should say that this was only the first part of a two part blog which I originally had published in the local directory here in Kings Hill. The second part is winging its way to the website as we speak!

    I think I would say that my post was aimed more at promoting the benefits of using a Family Law Solicitor rather than warning against the dangers of not using one!

    Just as some people are happy to do their own plumbing or prepare their own business accounts, there will always be some people who are happy to deal with their own divorce or other family matter.

    I also agree that some people can't afford a Solicitor and legal aid is increasingly difficult to obtain. They may have no choice than to deal with matters themselves and I am certain your book is a really helpful guide.

    I think my main concern is that, if you do wish to do your own divorce, you are not persuaded to pay to be sent forms which could be obtained free from the Court office and looking at some websites you may be doing just that.

    As for Swiss Tony's comments, I am more than happy to tell prospective clients that divorce forms can be obtained from the Court office for free. If someone is happy to deal with matters themselves then they should do so.

    I don't find that I do myself out or business by saying this and actually people respect you giving them all options before they make a decision as to how to go ahead. I also find that publishing information about divorce procedure on the website helps people to decide what to do next and again hasn't stopped them from instructing me.

    I can't comment on what other Solicitors do but I provide advice, guidance and drafting expertise rather than charging to send a blank form, so hopefully that will put Swiss Tony's mind at rest!

    As always John, I enjoy hearing your views ( I might even buy your book!) - Just wondered though whether its uncomfortable sitting on both sides of that fence!

  6. Many thanks for that Jo.

    Like my cat I sit on the fence, rather than on both sides, although that can be uncomfortable too!


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