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The short answer is yes. But what might seem like a financial saving at the time could cost you more in the long run. Divorce, including the financial aspects, is a complex legal process. Individuals who represent themselves will often be at a disadvantage compared with a spouse who is represented by a family law solicitor or barrister. And just because you represent yourself does not mean it’s any easier to appeal the terms of an unsatisfactory settlement or court order than if you had obtained legal advice.

 

Why Do Some People Represent Themselves?

Of course many people going through a divorce don’t have any choice about legal representation. They simply can’t afford it. And in recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of people who represent themselves in divorce proceedings (‘litigants in person’).  This is in part down to a recent reduction in the legal aid budget that has resulted in very few divorcing couples being eligible for financial assistance for legal representation in family cases.

The country’s most senior family law judge, Sir Andrew McFarlane has warned recently that the influx of “litigants in person” has on occasion exposed district judges to the fury of unrepresented and “emotionally charged” claimants. He indicated that the number of cases reaching the family courts has, for no discernible reason, increased substantially since 2016 and there are no indications of a leveling off in the volume of disputes.

It’s also worth pointing out that the amount of litigants in person is not just down to legal aid cuts. At Brookman Solicitors in London we often see instances where there are substantial matrimonial assets but one party is forced to represent themselves because they have no access to funds to pay for legal fees up front. We therefore discuss possible financing options below.

 

How Do Judges Treat Litigants In Person?

We are aware of situations where highly experienced lawyers represent one party while the other represents him or herself. In such cases the judge must strike a balance. On the one hand he or she must ensure the process is fair. On the other the judge can’t be seen to become involved in the case in a way that might be interpreted as unfairly favouring the unrepresented party.

Crowther v Crowther

This tension has been demonstrated recently by the Court of Appeal decision in Crowther v Crowther. There, at the contested financial hearing in the District court the husband was represented by an experienced barrister while the wife represented herself. When it came to the wife’s turn to question her husband the judge indicated that he wished to raise some matters with the husband first. He then questioned the husband in some detail before indicating that the wife could ask her own questions.

During his questioning the judge raised an issue about the husband’s ability to live on his own (the husband was physically disabled and vulnerable from a mental health perspective). His future accommodation requirements would clearly have a bearing on the final financial settlement. In its decision the Court of Appeal found that the judge’s questioning along these lines was unfair to the husband. The future living arrangements issue had never been part of the wife’s case so the husband had no prior warning that the issue would be raised. He therefore had no opportunity to present arguments in relation to it.

The case is now going to be reheard in full.

In an interesting remark the Court of Appeal summed up the delicate position of judges in cases where litigants in person appear as follows:

“..the requirement for the court to achieve a fair process by assisting the litigant in person almost inevitably draws the judge into the role of inquisitor, albeit on behalf of the litigant. It is a difficult line to tread..”

 

How We Can Help

We’ve worked in the family and divorce arena for long enough to appreciate the financial demands the divorce process can place on finances – even in relatively well off households. Many people come to us with concerns about paying for legal advice and in our view it is always best to get the best legal advice possible. Paying for sub standard advice or representing yourself can end up costing more because of the poor settlement you end up with. While you may be given some leeway by a judge in the course of a hearing this will be very limited as the Crowther case referred to above illustrates.

If you don’t have available funds you could consider a short-term loan from friends or family or your solicitor may be willing to enter into a Sears Tooth agreement where a proportion of your final settlement is set aside to meet legal fees.

For more information and to discuss our free consultation scheme you can call us on 44 (0) 20 7430 8470 or contact us online.

Can I Represent Myself In The Divorce Courts?

Date: August 8th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  The short answer is yes. But what might seem like a financial saving at the time could cost you more in the long run. Divorce, including the financial aspects, is a complex legal process. Individuals who represent themselves will often be at a disadvantage compared with a spouse who is represented by a family… Read the full article

Divorced And Taking Children Away For The Summer Holidays?

Date: July 9th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  When school holidays approach we are sometimes asked whether one parent can take children abroad for a summer holiday without seeking the permission of the other parent. It’s a sensitive question. One that, as with most types of family law disputes, is best resolved through private discussions between the parties – with the assistance… Read the full article

Can English Courts Change A Foreign Financial Order?

Date: July 2nd, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  We’ve written extensively about forum shopping in these advice pages. In particular we’ve explained why the financially weaker spouse in a divorce will often try – where possible – to have financial proceedings decided by a judge in England and Wales. Different jurisdictions have different rules and priorities when it comes to division of… Read the full article

Can I Challenge The Arbitrator’s Decision On My Divorce?

Date: June 11th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Arbitration is one way to resolve the financial issues around your divorce without involving a judge. It has many advantages – it’s usually a quicker way to resolve contentious matters than going to court. And it can often be a cheaper route to finalising a financial agreement. But it’s also worth highlighting one of… Read the full article

Why Pensions Matter More Than Ever In High Net Worth Divorce

Date: June 6th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  New data reported in the Financial Times makes interesting reading for anyone involved in divorce financial remedy proceedings. Particularly where matrimonial assets exceed £1 million.   Divorces Where Assets Exceed £1 Million Researchers combined analysis from the Office of National Statistics relating to wealth and assets with the projected number of divorces. They estimate… Read the full article

Are Prenups Still Binding?

Date: May 28th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Since 2010 and the case or Radmacher v Granatino the courts have generally accepted that a prenuptial agreement is binding, provided certain conditions are met. These requirements include for example that each party receives independent legal advice and that there is full disclosure by each side of their financial assets. For individuals wishing to… Read the full article

Choosing A Jurisdiction For Divorce: Pierburg v Pierburg

Date: May 8th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  The phenomenon of divorce tourism is not ideal. It puts unwanted pressure on the courts here to adjudicate on lengthy jurisdiction battles in cases where there is often only a slight connection to the UK. But establishing that the courts in England and Wales have the power to decide financial matters can make a… Read the full article

Amazon Chief’s Divorce Delivers A Lesson On Financial Settlements

Date: April 29th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  When the world’s richest man gets divorced the media is bound to be interested. And when Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and wife Mackenzie announced their intention to split in January 2019 it was against a background of salacious tabloid stories about what had led to the break up of the 25-year marriage. Given the… Read the full article

No-Fault Divorce Is On The Way: What About Financial Settlement Rules?

Date: April 16th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Campaign groups like Resolution, as well as many family lawyers like Brookman Solicitors in London have welcomed the announcement that the government intends to introduce a form of no-fault divorce “as soon as parliamentary time allows”. Ending the need to blame one party in a divorce is a subject we’ve discussed before on this… Read the full article

Divorce And Pet Custody

Date: February 21st, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Bucking the trend for sluggish Christmas sales on the high street a leading chain of pet stores this week announced bumper profits.  A director explained that the company’s success was in large part down to the fact that people now treat their pets as true family members. They are prepared to spend considerable sums… Read the full article


Google Reviews

Brookman Solicitors

70 Reviews

Yesima Hamid 04/09/2020

I want to highly commend Brookman Solicitors firm. I had the privilege of getting very thorough and sensible advice from their solicitor Jennifer Douglas. I don't have enough praise for her. She made me feel at ease and 'got me' and understood very well all the issues and her advice was on point. I felt she had my interest at heart in all the different matters. She was very accommodating and willing. She truly made a difference. She has great insight and I truly recommend her and the firm. They are very professional with the human touch.

Roohie Mahajan 16/08/2020

I am so happy that I hired their services. I am from India and it was my international divorce case. My ex husband is in the UK. I had a free telephone conversation with Henry Brookman and I was so satisfied that without even meeting him I was so confident. My case was handled in the best way possible.

He is probably the one of the best lawyers in the world. He is extremely competent, professional, intelligent and empathetic. The only lawyer who genuinely work to help you rather than making money. He is a very experienced lawyer and he saved me so much money. He is so calm and kind towards his approach. He is the most genuine person I have come across.

I just came to London once to attend my hearing. My husband and his solicitors made it so complicated. My ex husband has to spend double the amount of legal fees than me. This is the difference between hiring a good experienced lawyer. Their fees might be expensive but good lawyer will make you save money at the end. Finally at the end I won the case and my husband has to pay all my legal fees without me travelling to the UK. I will always be eternally grateful to Henry Brookman and Brookman Solicitors. I am falling short of words to praise them.

I highly recommend their services. Keep up the good work.

Jen Ade 23/07/2020

I had an initial consultation and Henry was well prepared. He gave great advice and followed through quite quickly. He was very helpful.

Chris Mullins 15/07/2020

Henry and team were most professional, considerate and efficient when handling the financial proceedings owing to my overseas divorce. I recommend their services highly. International circumstance was at first to me most daunting and confusing, given each country had its' own unique approach. Thankfully Henry was knowledgeable of the law on either side of the seas and able therefore to provide best guidance and reasoning to me which enabled favourable settlement!

Wim Jansen 24/06/2020

I contacted Brookman to ask for information regarding the validity of an international divorce court ruling. They were very quick in providing me with the right information. When I had another question a few months later around children matters I phoned them again and after taking some background information and contact details they booked me in for a free telephone consultation with 1 of their partners Talitha Brookman. She spent half an hour of her time explaining to me what I could expect and provided legal advice. All was free of charge. I would not hesitate to contact them again should any matter become more formal and have to go through court. The service has been quick, professional and very friendly.