This month marks the second anniversary of the introduction of ‘no-fault’ divorce in England and Wales. Since the law came into force on 6 April 2022, one of the biggest shifts we have noticed at FM Family Law is the rise in separated couples managing their own divorce/dissolution without the benefit of specialist legal advice. In this article we highlight some of the main risks associated with a DIY divorce/dissolution when finances are left unresolved.

 

It is perhaps unsurprising following the introduction of the ‘no-fault’ divorce law that separating couples are looking to take matters into their own hands. The DIY route is a tempting option for those looking to save costs in the short term, especially amid the ongoing costs of living crisis.

 

Crucially though, if you have chosen to DIY your divorce or dissolution it is important to understand that the final order in the divorce/dissolution does not automatically deal with any financial aspects arising from your separation.

 

There can be significant risks and financial losses if the financial outcome (culminating in a court-approved order) is not formalised, such as:

 

1. Loss of survivor benefits

On divorce/dissolution, you will cease to be entitled to any widow’s, widower’s or civil partner’s pension under your former spouse/civil partner’s pension scheme. This could represent a potentially valuable asset and future source of income which will be lost in the event your former spouse/civil partner predeceases you.

 

2. Re-marriage trap

Depending on how your divorce application was completed, if you remarry or enter into another civil partnership without first resolving the finances from your previous marriage/civil partnership, you may be caught by the ‘re-marriage trap’. This would bar you from being able to make certain financial claims against your former spouse/civil partner.

 

3. Unwanted tax issues

There could be potential tax implications for you or your former spouse/civil partner that apply. Without input from a specialist tax advisor, you could be liable to pay tax you did not expect. A tax advisor can also help explain your options for structuring a financial settlement in the most tax efficient way so as to mitigate any tax liabilities.

 

4. Litigation

You and your former spouse/partner may have agreed between yourselves how your finances should be divided at the time of your divorce/dissolution, but without the protection and certainty of a binding and enforceable court order, there is nothing to prevent either of you from later changing your minds. If you are unable to agree a way forward (for example, whether or not your original agreement should be upheld), then it might become necessary to engage dispute resolution services or involve the court.

 

5. Impact on immigration

A divorce or dissolution could impact on your, or your former spouse/partner’s, immigration or visa status as well as your, or their, ability to stay in the UK.

 

6. Risk of family home rights of occupation ending

Marriage and civil partnerships give rise to ‘home rights’ which applies when the family home is owned in one spouse/civil partner’s sole name. This means the non-owning spouse/civil partner is entitled to occupy the family home and, if they have already left, they are entitled to enter the property with permission from the court. However, this right automatically comes to an end on completion of the divorce/dissolution, unless there is a court order in place extending this right.

 

Above are just some examples of how managing your own divorce/dissolution without expert legal guidance could result in unintended and unexpected consequences. Unravelling issues caused by DIY solutions can make for a painful and stressful process requiring input from professional advisors, potentially costing you more in the long term.

 

It is always best to seek specialist advice at an early stage so you can make informed decisions about you and your family.

 

At FM Family Law, we are costs conscious and we are dedicated to ensuring specialist family law services are available to you to suit your budget.

 

If you would like advice in relation to your separation and resolving the related financial matters, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me and I will be pleased to advise further.

Carla Morphett

Carla Morphett

Associate and Practice Development Lawyer

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Note: The content of this article is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken in any specific circumstance.