Reduction in legal aid has led to increase in DIY divorce as couples attempt to negotiate the terms of their separation as litigants in person (LiP). This has led to concern over a lack of support and ‘impossible’ court delays due to the difficulty in dealing with the strain of handling their own case. Family law professionals and organisations such as Resolution have spoken out about the difficulty faced by LiPs, and the need for legal aid as well as an option for couples to choose no fault divorce.
According to the latest Ministry of Justice report, over a third of divorce-related disputes now involve unrepresented litigants – an increase of almost 20% in the past four years. The number of divorces between 2011 and 2015 also dropped by 14% – a significant decrease that the Office for National Statistics suggests is connected to the withdrawal of legal aid in March 2014.
During the same period increasing numbers of DIY litigants also correlates to a rise in cases citing ‘desertion’ as grounds for divorce which rose by over a third in 2011-2015. This increase of desertion cases appears to be related to litigants in person who find it difficult to determine how to justify ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of their marriage. However, desertion – or ‘abandonment’ – is otherwise rarely used in professionally represented cases, having declined steadily since 1985.
In most cases, it is difficult to prove, since it requires one party to demonstrate that their spouse not only had intention to desert but also left for a continuous period of two years or more. Proving desertion as grounds for divorce can be a complicated and lengthy process (and therefore costly). Furthermore, choosing an in appropriate option on applications can lead to DIY litigants having their papers returned, extending the process even more.
The alternative often chosen by professionally-represented couples is two years’ separation, providing both partners consent, and five years’ separation if they disagree. This process requires the parties to live separately for the duration, but does not require the same proof as desertion. Additional grounds for divorce include adultery and unreasonable behavior, both of which can become overly complicated for litigants in person to negotiate, and may lead to further difficulties and costs when taken to court.
In all cases, having an experienced, trusted solicitor on hand to help you through the process of separation is essential – not only to help you make the right decisions, to ensure that you are treated fairly, and protect your interests and assets, but also to ensure that the process runs as smoothly and quickly as possible. Having a solicitor to support you through the often complex negotiations of divorce could also potentially saving you money that cheaper ‘DIY’ choices inevitably rack up through misunderstandings and complications down the road.
Other options include mediation, arbitration and collaborative family law – all of which enable you to keep your case out of court and work cooperatively with your ex to find a solution that suits you as a couple – and, if you have children, as a family.
To speak with a friendly family lawyer at Frances Lindsay & Co about divorce, mediation, or other options for separation, call us on 01628 634667 or email email@example.com. We offer ‘a different kind of family law’ – making sure you have all the information you need to make the most appropriate decision for your circumstances. We have offices based in Beaconsfield and offer legal services across the whole of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.beaconsfield divorce, Beaconsfield divorce solicitor, divorce, divorce without blame, DIY divorce, litigants in person, no fault divorce, separation