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Divorce proceedings; why is it important to instruct a Solicitor?

Twenty-Eight Absolutely Identical Petitions: The Marriage of Gia Celine-Shelby and Alfie David Yorston and Twenty-Seven Other Related Cases [2021]

If you have separated from your spouse and are considering divorce proceedings, you may be tempted by online services offering ‘quickie divorces’. Whilst the prospect of a ‘quick’ divorce may seem attractive in the first instance, there are significant risks that accompany this option which may actually result in protracted divorce proceedings or even cause financial detriment in the absence of legal advice as to the effect of decree absolute.

There is one ground for divorce in England and Wales and that is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably (Matrimonial Causes Act 1973). Parties must rely on one of the five facts provided for within the legislation to demonstrate to the court that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. One of these five facts is known as ‘unreasonable behaviour’ and this is evidenced in the divorce petition by the petitioner (the spouse applying for the divorce) preparing a concise statement of case referring to specific examples of their spouse’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’.

Naturally, each petitioner’s statement of case should be completely unique and relevant to their personal circumstances and deterioration of marriage. In the recent case ofTwenty-Eight Absolutely Identical Petitions: The Marriage of Gia Celine-Shelby and Alfie David Yorston and Twenty-Seven Other Related Cases [2021], twenty-eight divorce petitions were dismissed owing to each petition having identical particulars of behaviour after having been produced by an online service, ‘iDivorces’ and the Judge consequently deeming the petitions to be ‘improper’. As such, the twenty-eight petitioners hoping for a speedy divorce will now need to restart the process and prepare a suitable petition specifically applicable to their own cases. This delay could have been easily avoided if the parties had instructed solicitors who would have prepared their own, unique statements of case thus allowing the divorce to proceed.

In addition to this, online services offering a ‘quickie divorce’ are highly unlikely to offer advice as to the implications of decree absolute, this being the document received at the conclusion of divorce proceedings. There is a common misconception that, because decree absolute legally terminates your marriage, this then means that financial matters are also resolved. This is unfortunately far from the truth and financial matters must be resolved independently. Until such time that a court order has been made specifically dealing with matrimonial finances, you remain vulnerable to your spouse making future financial claims against you regardless of the amount of time that may have elapsed since the divorce proceedings concluded with decree absolute.

There are numerous other legal and practical implications that decree absolute can have such as the effect on inheritance rights and pension benefits. It is, therefore, highly recommended that you seek specialist advice if you are considering divorce proceedings.

Contact our private family team on 0333 3232649 to discuss this topic further.