Smart Consumer: Why divorce doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg
'Till death us do part" may be the aim and aspiration of every married couple, but in reality marriages do break down.
Granted, our divorce rate is the lowest in Europe, at 0.8 divorces per 1,000 of the population at the last count. But still, people are getting divorced and it can be a costly business.
But as with everything, there are different roads you can take to get to the same destination.
Alex Duffy, whose company provides web videos for businesses, is a believer in doing things for yourself.
A father of two grown-up children, he and his wife separated seven years ago. Four years later, they both consulted solicitors for quotes but then engaged in about five sessions of mediation.
"The mediation helped enormously", says Alex, "in that it provided a process that enabled us to sit down and form an amicable agreement. After that, DIY divorce became a possibility".
At a cost of €500 in total for his DIY divorce, Alex is in no doubt that this is the cheapest route he could have taken.
There are now several DIY divorce companies in Ire- land, and Cathy O'Brien's diydivorce.ie was the first, which she set up in May 2000.
The cost is approximately €500 and depending on the county you are in, the time frame can range from two months in Dublin to six months and more in smaller counties where divorce hearings are not held regularly.
"When people contact us", explains Cathy, "we ask questions to ensure we can handle all the paperwork for them. If there are major property or pension issues that cannot be agreed upon, we may refer them to a more appropriate avenue such as a solicitor or legal aid".
There are three stages that Cathy refers to. Firstly, lodging the main ocuments including those covering means, welfare and pension, which are lodged in court and served on the respondent.
Then if there is agreement, in most counties the next stage is the issuing of a 'notice of motion' and a court hearing. Other counties require an in-between stage where a letter is issued advising of a 14-day period where the respondent can contest if they wish.
The whole process requires several affadavits that must be completed in the presence of a solicitor or commissioner of oaths, at a cost of about €10 each and Cathy charges an additional €50 if they have to deal with pension documents, but they will guide you through the process and handle the paperwork for you.
"Business has slowed down", admits Cathy, "as falling property prices and disappearing assets mean many cannot afford to get divorced. But people don't realise that the legal process does not have to cost an arm and a leg".