If your family law case is straightforward and uncomplicated, then no, you may not need a solicitor. It is quite possible, for example, to get divorced without legal assistance: just log on to gov.uk, complete the forms, pay your fee and follow the procedures. In a few months’ time, the process will be complete and you will officially be divorced.
Even if you have to go to court, you do not do necessarily need a solicitor: you can appear as an unrepresented “litigant in person”. Of course, if you do so, the judge and other lawyers will still expect you to have at least some grasp of court procedure and how to conduct your case. You can indeed find the basics of this process outlined on the web.
But the key word here is “basics”. Mastering the intricacies of family law takes years of study and even more years in practice. Without legal training you are bound to make mistakes and likely to fare badly against any experienced barristers or lawyers who may be representing your opponent. Some judges are patient and will take the time during hearings to explain legal procedures and issues to confused litigants in person, despite the pressure of backlogs and timetables: but you cannot rely on such kindness.
A similar principle applies to divorce. The recently introduced online divorce system was designed to make the process a largely bureaucratic, form-filling affair. If your assets are limited and you and your spouse agree on the fundamentals, then no, you do not need a solicitor to end your marriage.
But what if there are any complicating factors? What if, for example:
- You or your spouse have assets or debts?
- You share children together?
- You signed a pre-nuptial agreement limiting your financial rights?
- You are struggling to agree on the details of a settlement?
- You believe your estranged spouse is not being honest and is attempting to conceal significant issues or assets?
Then professional legal advice becomes a worthwhile investment that will – in almost all instances – pay for itself in due course. An expert family lawyer will ensure that every eventuality is considered and that your interests are fully protected. If you were the less wealthy spouse, for example, a lawyer will help to ensure you get the settlement to which you are entitled under the law, even if your former partner chooses to be uncooperative or difficult. And if you were the wealthier party? Then your solicitor will work to protect your assets by limiting as much as possible the payments you will need to make, and by working to reach a full and final settlement with your former partner. They will cross every t and dot every I to ensure your ex cannot return to court in the future to make additional claims on your wealth.