Home Improvements: Helpful Advice To Avoid DIY Divorce Headaches 

Published on 14 July, 2022 | Suzanne Smales

As even the most casual glance around any one of this country’s many retail parks will demonstrate, DIY is one of the UK’s great collective hobbies.

However, it is certainly not risk-free.

Earlier this year, news media carried reports showing that nearly 6,000 people had to go to hospital during the previous year after accidents involving power tools, such as drills, saws or lawnmowers (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10363513/Lockdown-craze-DIY-gardening-thousands-hospital-accidents-injuries.html).

A further 2,700 needed treatment for injuries sustained while using “non-powered tools”, like hammers or screwdrivers.

Confronted with those figures, it might come as no surprise that some people prefer to entrust jobs which require care, skill or remotely dangerous equipment to specialist professionals.

Nevertheless, Britons continue to be fascinated with the idea of doing things for themselves.

In May, I wrote on this ‘blog of how an online portal created by the Ministry of Justice to make administering divorce even easier had proven very popular (https://hallbrown.co.uk/foreseeable-futures-pension-splitting-and-divorce/).

The MoJ, in fact, said that the number of divorce petitions submitted using the method had increased by 22 per cent in a single year, with some of those being made by separating spouses themselves.

The advent of ‘no-fault’ divorce (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2020/11/contents/enacted) in April is expected by some commentators to fuel further uptake of the digital process.

Yet just like pruning a rose bush or putting up some shelves, handing the business of divorce – or, more particularly, the negotiations about how to divide joint marital assets – without taking the advice of a lawyer carries its own sort of risks.

That much is acknowledged by Moneyhelper, the government’s debt guidance and advice service, which came into being a year ago.

It makes clear that whilst a DIY divorce “can seem the cheapest and easiest way to a settlement…it can be complex”.

Moneyhelper actually recommends a “safety check meeting with a specialist family lawyer” to “help you understand your rights and the full implications of any agreements and decisions you make”, as well as ensuring that any agreed resolution is legally binding (https://www.moneyhelper.org.uk/en/family-and-care/divorce-and-separation/diy-do-it-yourself-divorce-or-dissolution).

Many people, of course, choose not to do so.

Back in February, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released figures showing that 103,592 same-sex and opposite sex couples divorced during 2020.

Further data released last month by the Ministry of Justice revealed that fewer than 42,000 couples (or 40.49 per cent of all those divorced during 2020) ended their marriages after concluding the terms of a financial settlement.

That means 61,641 divorces happened without what might be described as a ‘financial full-stop’ being put in place.

It is very significant because any of the individuals could make a financial claim at any point in the future against their exes should they inherit, develop a successful business or win the lottery.

I understand that some couples might try to do everything themselves because even though their break-up is painful, it’s relatively amicable.

Even so, it’s important to realise that family lawyers actually want to do everything possible to avoid conflict.

There are several methods now available to ensure that retaining a lawyer does not mean having to go to court.

Myself and my colleagues at Hall Brown offer something known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (or ADR, for short).

It allows couples to take advantage of the experience and knowledge of family lawyers in order to reach a positive outcome and – just as importantly – avoid the costly possible consequences of making a mistake.

That the various ADR methods – mediation, arbitration, ’round-table negotiation and collaborative law – are becoming ever more popular, underlines the desire common to many couples of resolving matters about financial settlements or children outside the courts.

In my experience, it provides couples with tremendous reassurance to know that they are able – simply and constructively – to prevent difficulties which can be rather more long-lasting than a leaky pipe.

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