A recent survey has unearthed a new trend amongst married couples who are splitting up – around 40% of these couples chose to end their marriage via DIY divorces.
Jenine Abdo, Solicitor in Family Law at Simpson Millar, explores the sudden rise of DIY divorces and ‘divorce selfies’, and how ‘splitsville’ has been given a completely new meaning.
A rising trend in the number of DIY divorces implies that more and more people are looking for quick-fix, cheap ways of separating from their partners without having to pay for legal representation.
On top of this, the negative stereotype attributed to divorce lawyers is being perpetuated by celebrities, with the likes of Gary Lineker – whose second marriage recently ended – commenting that lawyers’ goals are to simply “make you spend more money and basically end up hating each other.”
Saying ‘I don’t!’
For couples who decide to end their relationship in the UK, there are currently 5 grounds on which they can file for divorce:
• Unreasonable behaviour
• Living separately for more than 2 years
• Living separately for more than 5 years
These grounds, however, only apply to some cases of divorce, as a lot of couples choose to end their marriage on cordial or mutual terms. However, as the law doesn’t grant divorces on these terms, individuals who find themselves stuck in drawn-out divorces might resort to more creative tactics to speed up their divorce, for example looking for mild allegations to make against their partner.
Whilst these accusations might be perceived as harmless by the individual making them, they have the power to cause rifts or bad blood between couples.
Divorce selfies and selfie divorces
In a society obsessed with publicising key moments of our lives on social media, it’s no surprise that technology has played an important role in reducing the stigma attached to the idea of divorce.
‘Divorce selfies’ – featuring smiling, optimistic-looking couples – are taking the world of social media by storm, with a Canadian couple’s DIY divorce selfie going viral and racking up over 30,000 shares on Facebook.
Splitsville, an app and website created by divorcée Tara Averill for couples getting divorced, along with an increase in unconventional celebrity divorces, such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s ‘conscious uncoupling’, shows that couples want to end their marriages without much conflict, especially where children are involved.
So, are DIY divorces as promising as they look?
Jenine points out that couples are often misled by the notion that DIY divorces are stress-free and easy to execute:
“Clients frequently come to me in tears when they’re in the middle of getting a DIY divorce, because they don’t understand the financial element involved – such as dividing assets – or their ex-spouse has wanted to get a quick divorce and hasn’t been honest and upfront with them.”
‘No fault divorce bill’
It appears that couples aren’t the only people who are calling out for reforms to be made to divorce law in the UK.
In 2015, MP Richard Bacon proposed the ‘No Fault Divorce Bill’, which sought to put an end to the blame game and give couples the option of separating due to ‘irreconcilable differences’.
Objections relating to the bill, however, have impacted its ability to get any real traction with the government, as some have suggested that it will undermine the sanctity of marriage.
A movement towards DIY divorces on more agreeable terms does indicate that the current legal system, which has been in place for decades, might need to be reviewed and adapted to meet the needs of a modern society where couples are eager to cut their ties and move on.
“Whilst DIY divorces initially seem attractive to couples who are looking for a seemingly simple and cheap way of splitting up, divorces finalised without legal guidance can often cause couples serious problems later down the line.”
“Individuals representing themselves tend to miss out on addressing the more technical issues involved with divorces, such as not applying for financial orders from their spouses. This can cause a lot of trouble if and when they decide to remarry, as their exes can lodge financial claims after their divorce has been finalised.”
“There’s also a greater potential for partners to deceive their other halves about the state of their finances, especially if they don’t want to share their assets equally. For example, some individuals might not honestly disclose their investments and total assets – including pensions – meaning that their partner receives a less-than-fair settlement.”
“Similarly, couples splitting up who have children will also need to determine how much child support will be allocated for their child – or children. There’s a possibility that without legal intervention this can be calculated wrong or the parent caring for the child doesn’t receive enough support.”
“Contrary to what people think, the majority of family practitioners want matters to remain as amicable and easy as possible for all parties, especially when children are involved. Being represented by a solicitor doesn’t mean that matters will turn nasty or become more complicated.”
“Whilst a lot of people might think that the price of a divorce is sky high, we offer a range of affordable options, including fixed fee or more tailored services, which cater to your needs.”
Written by Jenine Abdo
For more information on family law and the services offered by Simpson Millar, please call
0808 129 3304