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DIY Divorce in Ireland: Six Risks To Be Aware Of

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Broken heart and wedding rings, representing DIY divorce.

A DIY (Do-It-Yourself) divorce, where you handle the divorce proceedings without professional legal assistance, can be appealing due to its lower cost and perceived simplicity. However, it carries several risks and potential disadvantages. If you are thinking about getting a DIY divorce to save time and money, be sure you have considered the following risks.

Failure to address complex legal issues

DIY divorces can be risky due to complex legal issues like child custody, spousal support, division of assets, and debt allocation. These matters require a deep understanding of legal procedures and rights, which most individuals without legal training lack. Handling these complexities without a solicitor increases the risk of entering into an unfair agreement that may be difficult and costly to reverse. If there are substantial assets in the marriage, a DIY divorce is particularly inadvisable.

Incorrect or incomplete paperwork

In Ireland, marriage is a legally binding institution that’s not easily dissolved. Dissolution requires meeting all legal requirements; failure to do so leads to automatic application of Irish law. Divorce needs careful handling to ensure a fair and lasting outcome. Simple mistakes in the paperwork can have serious consequences.

It’s a good idea to ensure that a solicitor is involved in the preparation of the main documents which are: A Family Law Civil Bill (setting out the key details of your marriage); An Affidavit of Means (setting out your financial position); An Affidavit of Welfare (required if you have children that need providing for); and A Notice of Motion and Affidavit (requesting the court to consider and rule on your application, and confirming you have followed the rules for getting a divorce).

Whilst it’s possible to file this paperwork with the relevant Circuit Court without taking any legal advice, or by using a cheap online DIY service, there is a risk that mistakes made in the documentation will cause problems for you further down the line.

Risk of financial loss

A thorough understanding of your financial situation is required to come to a formal financial settlement. Without seeking professional legal advice, you are at a high risk of financial loss due to scenarios such as an unfair division of assets or through unintentionally assuming excessive debt. It’s essential to sever financial ties during the divorce to prevent future claims on assets or earnings by your ex-spouse. A commonly overlooked aspect is the fair division of pension assets, which, if mishandled, can lead to significant disadvantages at retirement.

Property, income, and pensions are key considerations in dividing assets. Negotiating a fair division is complex, highlighting the importance of a divorce solicitor. Your solicitor can ensure a full disclosure of assets, protecting against unfair debt allocation, and securing your rightful share in various assets, including the home, properties, businesses, and pensions. Without a solicitor’s expertise, you risk missing out on what you’re legally entitled to.

Lack of objectivity

Divorce is emotionally challenging, and it can be hard to make impartial decisions without the guidance of a neutral third party. Even if you are on perfectly amicable terms with your spouse, and both in full agreement that you want to divorce as quickly and painlessly as possible, it’s still likely that you could make decisions that have very serious long-term consequences if you choose not to seek the advice of a solicitor throughout any aspect of the process.

Difficulty in enforcing agreements

There is a risk that self-prepared divorce agreements might be unenforceable in some circumstances. This can occur if the agreement fails to comply with legal standards or overlooks certain mandatory provisions. Without an understanding of the complexity of legal language, or the application of family law in Ireland, a DIY agreement might not adequately address all necessary issues or be drafted in a legally sound manner. Consequently, such agreements risk being invalidated by a court, leading to potential legal and financial complications.

Difficulty in changing agreements later

Modifying court orders in the context of divorce can be a challenging process, particularly if the original agreement was not well-constructed. This difficulty often arises due to the legally binding nature of these agreements once they are approved by a court. A poorly drafted agreement may not account for future changes in circumstances, such as financial shifts, relocation, or changes in childcare needs. When parties seek to amend these aspects later, they may find that the rigidity of the original terms does not accommodate easy modifications.

Furthermore, the process to alter a court order typically requires demonstrating a significant change in circumstances, which can be a high threshold to meet. This involves not only legal paperwork but potentially court appearances and negotiations with the other party, all of which can be time-consuming and costly. If the original agreement lacks clarity or foresight, these modifications become even more complex and may require extensive legal assistance to navigate.

The initial construction of a divorce agreement plays a critical role in how easily it can be adjusted in the future. Well-crafted agreements anticipate potential changes and provide mechanisms for adjustment, whereas poorly constructed agreements can lock parties into arrangements that no longer suit their situations, making subsequent changes a cumbersome and often contentious process.

Considering a DIY divorce?

If you are in agreement with your spouse to end your marriage and you’re looking for a fast and cost-effective solution for doing so, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced family law solicitor before deciding to go ahead with a DIY approach to your divorce. Arrange a consultation with us using our confidential online form and a member of our team will be in touch to schedule a time for your appointment.

Clíodhna O'Regan

Born and raised in Clonakilty, Clíodhna O’Regan is an Associate Solicitor specialising in conveyancing, with a particular interest in commercial conveyancing. She also specialises in family law. She has been an integral part of McCarthy + Co. for six years since she returned West in January 2017, after gaining experience as a conveyancing and probate solicitor in Cork city.

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