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The divorce portal: Makes divorce easier, but beware!

View profile for Melanie Loxley
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The divorce portal: Makes divorce easier, but beware!

At Birkett Long our family team have been waiting for a long time for the divorce process to be made more efficient and I am pleased to say that in my experience so far, the divorce portal has enabled divorces to be processed far more quickly than had been the case for many years under the old paper-based system.

I do have 2 major concerns though.  This is an extract from an automated email I recently received from the court on a case where I acted for the applicant in the divorce proceedings:

Reference no: *************************

Case: Name v Name

Dear Melanie Loxley,

You can now apply to complete the divorce and get a decree absolute.

The divorce is not complete until a caseworker approves the decree absolute.

Sign in to your account to proceed:

https://manage-case.platform.hmcts.net/cases/case-details/*******

This is an automated message, please don’t reply to this email.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service

 

My first concern:

If I had not been a family solicitor and this was an email I had received from the court about my own divorce, I would have read this and thought (quite correctly) that I could now apply for the Decree Absolute and finalise my divorce. 

If my husband and I had already worked out the financial issues between ourselves, I would have assumed that this was the end of the matter and I would have thought no more about it.

That assumption would have been wrong.

In actual fact, whilst the Decree Absolute finalises the divorce and brings an end to your marriage, it does not finalise or even impact on the financial claims you have against one another on divorce.  Those financial claims survive the Decree Absolute and can only be brought to an end by a Court Order. 

The automated email from the court does not tell you this, which is why I felt it was really important I brought this to the attention of all those couples who are dealing with their divorces themselves and are (understandably) assuming that the Decree Absolute is an end to the matter.

My second concern:

Is that whilst it may be tempting to apply to the court for Decree Absolute as soon as you can,  in the event of your spouse's death, you will no longer stand to inherit the bulk of their estate and you will no longer be entitled to benefit from their pensions as their widow/widower if your Absolute has been pronounced. 

It may well be in your best interests not to apply for the Absolute until the financial issues have been resolved and recorded in a court order.  Again, the divorce portal does not tell you this but it is important to bear this in mind.

In short, my advice would be this: 

  • Don’t assume the end of the divorce is the end of the financial claims between you because it is not and don’t apply for Decree Absolute unless and until you are certain it is in your best interests to do so.
  • If you and your spouse are dealing with your own divorce online and have reached an agreement in relation to the finances, we can help you record that agreement in a Court Order made by consent. 
  • If you are struggling to reach an agreement, we are experts in helping you to resolve the finances in whatever way suits you and your family best and we can advise you on how and when it would be best to finalise the divorce proceedings.

To discuss your own situation feel free to call me for a free 15 minute telephone consultation on 01206 217384 or contact me on mel.loxley@birkettlong.co.uk.

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