The recent case of the wife who lost a £3.2m home in a “cheap divorce that went wrong” highlights the importance of obtaining good legal advice for any divorce or family matter.

According to press reports recently, Mrs Wilson and her husband came to agreement between themselves about how their assets should be divided upon their separation. They were a wealthy couple, living in a five bedroom home in an expensive area of Berkshire. She was to pay him a lump sum and then would obtain finance to carry out a development of property they already owned. She re-financed to pay her husband his agreed sum but then failed to get funding to undertake the work and was left with debts. The reports state that she is now living in council accommodation and is on benefits.

Although Mrs Wilson had a solicitor, it seems that some crucial advice was missed. In trying to short circuit the process and save money, things went wrong.

When separating, it is of course sensible to agree as much as possible. No-one wants a bitter dispute which only serves to increase legal costs. However, it is advisable to have good advice and for the agreement to be properly drawn up. A consent order can be drafted which can then go before a judge for approval.  In Mrs Wilson’s case, it seems some elements of the agreement were implemented without the consent order having been approved. This left her vulnerable, as there was no way of enforcing the terms if problems arose later.

There are potential danger areas in family law. For example, not everyone would know that if either party re-marries that party is not then entitled to apply to the court for a financial provision order in his or her favour.

Many people sign up to cheap on-line divorces without realising the hidden costs which are not mentioned such as court fees. It may be labelled “quick divorce” but in fact it may be no quicker and you may miss out on some important advice about wills, pensions or the children for example.

There is no substitute for good advice from a specialist family solicitor – and it could save you money in the long run.

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