BLB’s head of Family Law, Sarah Jackson, considers whether lawyers still have a role where divorce is amicable. To discuss any aspect of Divorce and Family Law, our Family Law Team is available on 01225 462871. Alternatively, you can contact them by email.
An amicable divorce should always be the aim – keeping stress and costs to a minimum and, where there are children, minimising conflict and keeping communication constructive.
Often, the best way to achieve this is to take early and ongoing advice from a lawyer who is committed to a conciliatory approach. You can ask your lawyer for as much, or as little, input as you require.
The divorce itself
With regard to the divorce process itself – ending the legal contract of marriage – this can be done online without a lawyer. However, you must ensure that examples of behaviour are sufficiently detailed in the divorce application and that the date of separation and details of living arrangements are acceptable in the decree nisi application. Failure to seek advice on these points can result in divorce paperwork being rejected by the court, which will mean increased costs and the risk of dispute.
As regards financial claims, these need to be dealt with separately as a divorce does not automatically bring to an end any financial claims you might have against one another. You can reach an agreement between you without a lawyer, but it needs to be converted into a ‘financial consent order’ to be legally binding. A court won’t just rubber-stamp the agreement you have reached – the consent order needs to be in an acceptable format, and the net effect of any agreement must not be ‘unfair’ in the eyes of the court. It is, therefore, crucial to engage a lawyer to assist with any consent order application.
Arrangements for children
Regarding arrangements for your children, the usual course is not to involve a lawyer if you can sort out arrangements between you. But a lawyer can assist with a consent order application if both parents think that an order setting out agreed arrangements would be helpful.
If you are unable to reach an agreement between you in relation to the above issues, mediation is definitely worth exploring as an option. However, mediation takes the place of direct discussions; it does not preclude the need for a lawyer once an agreement has been reached.