Since the family law reforms of April 2013 effectively removed public funding for most divorces there has been a steady and predictable rise in the numbers of people seeking a DIY divorce. Litigants in person (LIPs) are self-represented parties who run their own cases with no professional support.
For those who have the time and wherewithal the attraction is obvious. With typical fees for divorce (by which we mean both the dissolution of the marriage and the resolution of the matrimonial finances) in the region of £2,000 there would seem to be clear benefits particularly at a time when every pound counts…and is counted!
Our cases are typically made up of a mixture of professional counterparts and self-represented parties. They are a feature of our work and here to stay. David Smith , divorce specialist at Beswicks Legal, asks whether it is really best to go it alone?
Most obviously LIPs are not trained advocates. It’s not just a case of understanding the law – the Family Court system is not designed for non-lawyers. Its procedures assume that in most cases there will be two parties and two legal representatives. There has been limited adaption of this model to support LIP’s. Many people attempting a DIY divorce struggle to understand and use case management procedures to their best advantage.
Worryingly, Lord Dyson recently told MPs that “an increase in litigants in person causes miscarriages of justice” as self-representation incurs the risk of a correct result not being reached because the court does not have the legal assistance of counsel.
Our own experience is that people representing themselves fare far worse than their represented spouses or civil partners, both emotionally and financially. They tend to focus on, and indeed perpetuate, the very conflicts that brought their marriage to an end rather than the new beginnings that the divorce process and a proper financial settlement brings about.
Filtering negative feelings through professional lawyers reduces tensions and hostility and is proven to work in bringing about a faster and more effective outcome. Where children are involved this is even more important.
Divorce results in a review of all aspects of a relationship, for example, children, finances, business, pensions, overseas and UK property ownership, and as such it is easy to overlook a vital aspect of settlement or resolution. The key to making a divorce affordable is to talk to a professional in the early stage and agree a fee in advance where possible.
If you’d like a confidential chat or any further information on divorce or separation please contact Beswicks Legal on 01782 205000 or firstname.lastname@example.org