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Divorce and separation

The dangers of the DIY divorce

By May 21, 2019February 23rd, 2024No Comments

The temptation to wind up your marriage quickly means that online services are gaining popularity around the world, including in Australia. This has meant an increase in the number of married couples doing their own DIY divorce without the assistance of a lawyer and, if negotiations fail and it ends up in court, going to court unrepresented. But trying to divorce without legal advice can have negative long-term consequences including the big danger of making bad choices and unwise settlements with the potential to hit hard down the track. Unrepresented individuals may not be aware of the implications and consequences of agreements they are making, lacking the assistance of a professional to explain the pitfalls of various options.

In some cases people are unrepresented because they have no choice – they can’t afford legal representation but don’t qualify for Legal Aid. Other times, they make the choice because they perceive this will save them money. Still others think that the divorce process will be faster if they sign up to ‘divorce in a day’ services.

But professionals warn against DIY divorces—and even the purveyors of online DIY divorce kits themselves warn against their use, by covering themselves with a  disclaimer warning users to first seek legal advice before looking into undertaking a DIY divorce. In a clear indication of the limitation of online divorce services, the chief executive of one such company in the UK recently told that he hopes his DIY divorce kit is “being used by people who have had legal advice or been through mediation and are using us to finish off a process as basically, it is admin”.

What’s important to remember is that ending a marriage is a two part process: there’s the divorce process which is an administrative process which changes you from being legally married to being single again, and then there’s the property settlement process, being the legal agreement reached on finances and assets. The divorce process alone does not bring an end to financial claims; the property settlement process must be undertaken to avoid remaining open to future claims from your ex-spouse.

So while online divorces may be an administrative procedure involving lodging documents with a court, which is what most online service companies offer, they usually can’t handle the bigger picture of settlement negotiations. And as for navigating the more complex financial negotiations  – forget it.

Further adding to the problem is the fact that it’s easy to input the wrong information on automated forms without the assistance of a solicitor, which can cause a mess that requires unravelling later on. And don’t underestimate the costs involved in revising and correcting DIY documents.

While it’s understandable that you want the process to be finished as quickly and cheaply as possible, remember that a DIY kit is not a comprehensive solution and in most cases, divorces really do require a human touch.

Our firm’s principal solicitor Cristina says: “Our experience suggests that amicable separations rarely involve significant costs and that hostile separations, or separations where parties just cannot agree, will not be particularly assisted by artificial intelligence (AI). AI, by definition has to rely on logic which means the computer will more often than not “say no” to proposed solutions in complex emotion driven matters. Rarely are the difficult matters we deal with resolved with simple logic.”

Engaging professionals, even if you are in a cooperative phase with your ex, will ensure you end up with reasonable, enforceable agreements which will no doubt save you money in the long term. Even hiring a solicitor for partial services is a smart move – consider also looking into unbundled legal services.

So save the DIY for the furniture hacks unless you want to be sarcastically joking “nailed it!” — in reference to your divorce!

Note: There are a limited number of online and e-filing services offered by the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia, which you can access here.

If you would like assistance with a family law matter, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Legal Services on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Legal Services.


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