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“Do Your Own Divorce – A Practical Guide to Divorcing Without a Lawyer” Book Review

I am sure there are vocational lawyers out there who will be spitting feathers at the mere suggestion of doing a divorce without a lawyer, but don’t shoot the messenger as it is one of your own who has written this book! John Bolch is a solicitor with over 25 years experience specialising in divorce and family matters. He is a member of Resolution (formerly the Solicitors Family Law Association), and is the author of Family Lore, blog, purportedly the first family law blog in the UK.

Here at Family Court Support we take it as read that divorce, ancillary relief, residence and contact matters are done without a vocational lawyer, as the thought of handing over £100+ per hour to a solicitor (plus uplift for Care and Control and VAT of course), and then paying counsel to do the real work at hearing while said solicitor Tweets in the cheap seats, doesn’t make sense to us.

John Bolch is careful to draw a line in the sand between a truly uncontested divorce, and one that starts off all sweetness and light but ends up kind of mental, with everyone hating each other and blaspheming through their veneered teeth about what a skank the other person was. His standard advice then is to get legal advice if things get contested.

Of course that is not necessarily the same as walking down to your local High Street and seeing a solicitor who helped you with that compo claim a few years back, or who conveyed your house purchase back in the 90’s.

If you choose to eschew your right to conduct your own litigation or represent yourself, an alternative approach if the litigation has already started is to look to see whether you can find a barrister who you can instruct by way of Direct Access. Or you could try to get a specialist Family Law solicitor. Piece of advice though, try and find one with a decent law degree, and not some BA who has done a conversion course. Have a look at their website or headed paper for the qualifications as I have a theory that most family lawyers haven’t got a great degree classification to start with, but it is axiomatic that a law degree is more relevant to the situation than a degree based on writing about Shakespeare. Not wishing to be snobby here but writing in a legal academic style is miles harder than doing an essay for an English degree.

I read this book from cover to cover (it has some excellent Appendices of court forms and sample affidavits etc ) and like the cut of it’s gib enough that I have sold out to the capitalist ideal listed it as a recommended book on our website at Family Court Support. It is written in a very easy to understand  Plain English style, has a glossary at the end, and is very current being published August 2009.

If the opportunity arose I would have little hesitation in recommending it to our clients, but by the time they arrive at our oasis of calm they are normally passed the ‘let’s be amicable’ stage, and are more likely to Google ‘Voodoo Dolls’ and the long tail ‘Lithuanian Hitman who offers Die Now Pay Later’  rather than giving an inch or compromising. Our clients normally arrive with a monster solicitors bill in tow, usually with two columns, one labelled ‘Professional Fees’ and the other asking for £10,000’s without a list of dates or times, or anything approaching an account statement. Thankfully a double helping of Cook on Costs soon brings the miscreant solicitor back down to earth with a bump.

Even though I might get a few coppers from Amazon if someone buys the book through our link I do genuinely recommend the book as it takes the very wise position of suggesting that the starting point for matters concerning the children should be Shared Residence. Some good tips in it as well but you will need to buy the book to find those out!

Some things that I would like added are a companion website for all the useful links plus footnotes in support of propositions made in the book, for example the change of the CSA formula in 2011 and the ‘remarriage rule’. That might make it more of a legal academic text book and I would understand if John felt that this was taking the book away from first principles.

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