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Be wary of online divorce legal services

View profile for Philip Hoddell
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Getting divorced is a very stressful time for everyone. Sorting out your legal position, making arrangements for the children and splitting finances, all have to be done at a time when you may be feeling unable to cope with very much. 

So where to turn for help? Sometimes the quickest thing to do is to search online, where there is a lot of information, and some advice (and some of the advice is right, although not all of it). 

However, what has become quite clear to me is that you should be very wary about relying on the government’s own website. Let me explain why. 

When a couple get divorced they often want to make their financial arrangements legally binding. To do that, a solicitor draws up a document known as a “financial consent order” and it goes to the Court for the Judge to approve. Once it has been approved, it is legally binding. 

This is the crucial bit though – until a Decree Nisi has been granted in the divorce, a Judge cannot consider a final financial consent order. Once a Decree Nisi has been pronounced, a final financial consent order can be sent to the Court at any time for the Judge to approve. 

The problem is that this is what the government website says (my comments appear underneath each statement):

“You can ask the Court to approve your consent order if both of the following apply:-

  • You have started the paperwork to divorce or end your civil partnership”

This is incorrect. You have to have started the divorce, but if you have not got to a Decree Nisi stage, you cannot ask the Court to approve your consent order.

  • “You have not yet applied for the final legal document to end the relationship”

Again, this is incorrect. The final legal document is a Decree Absolute (or Final Order for a civil partnership). The grant of it does not prevent you from lodging a financial consent order afterwards.

Perhaps governments should stick to doing what they do best (whatever that is!) and not pretend to be knowledgeable about these sort of legal issues!

If you need legal advice, it is best to obtain it from a solicitor. We offer a free, no obligation 15 minute consultation to anyone who has issues surrounding divorce or separation. I am based in our Colchester office and can be contacted on 01206 217320 or philip.hoddell@birkettlong.co.uk.

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