When no fault divorce came into effect last year, it also heralded new opportunities for separating couples to file for divorce online.

So, why should separating couples choose to use a family lawyer rather than divorce online? LGFL Managing Director and family lawyer Rita Gupta explains.


Couples who wish to file for divorce can now start the process online. The applications form itself is relatively straightforward, but the information you fill in on your online application could have far-reaching consequences for your futures both as co-parents and as individuals.

The governmental online divorce process only covers the dissolving of the marriage itself. It does not cover provision for children or division of finances, which are usually the contentious areas for divorcing couples. The government online divorce also doesn’t offer you any advice or help on other aspects of divorce apart from the official process.

Online divorce actually consists of various online forms which are not altogether straightforward to complete They also use legal terms you may not be familiar with. Sadly, even the smallest of errors on these forms can be hard to correct once you press the “Apply” button.

By taking legal advice from a family lawyer in advance of divorcing, you can understand the implications, the process, and the long-term impact across all aspects of your lives. The advice you receive will also be tailored to your individual circumstances. You can consider the upfront costs of specialist legal advice as an investment in the future, to ensure you get the best outcome from your divorce for you and your family.


No quickie divorce

The legal divorce process in England and Wales has exactly the same time scales whether you apply online yourself or take advantage of the experience and advice of a family lawyer. There is no such thing as a quickie divorce, as the statutory divorce timeline will apply in all cases.


No need to go to court

One of the main reasons cited by couples for an online “DIY” divorce is that it won’t involve a court appearance. In reality, there are no real grounds for contested divorces. Similarly, if matters such as children and finances are a matter of mutual consent and agreement, it needn’t go to court at all. Much of these issues arise from the misunderstanding that parties have when they use the term divorce.


Talk to a real person

You may find online providers who will manage your divorce process for you, for a fee. Whilst the official divorce application forms are managed by the government, it’s important to remember that the online “provider” sector is not officially regulated. So those dealing with your divorce case at some provider services may not be qualified family solicitors, or have expertise. They will not be able to tailor their services or advice to your particular case should your circumstances be complicated.

At LGFL, your first contact with us is usually a one hour reduced fee consultation where we can discuss the unique circumstances around your divorce. We then can offer specific, tailored legal advice to plan the best way forward possible for your family. You also have the reassurance that our long-established family law firm is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.


Help, I’ve pressed the button!

We are seeing an increasing number of clients who have already applied online and who then realise getting a divorce is much more involved than they first imagined. At LGFL, we can help you take your divorce forward even if you have “pressed the button” and support you throughout the whole process.

At LGFL, we have the knowledge, expertise and professional capacity to sort and advance all your divorce documentation when you may not have the time, energy or understanding yourself.


Professional, empathetic support when you need it most

Divorce can be an emotional rollercoaster, and knowing that your family lawyer is fighting your corner can help you to divorce with much less stress and worry. Our pragmatic and empathetic approach helps us devise strategies to achieve the best outcomes for you, and especially any minor children.

We are also passionate about transparency. As our client, you will always know what is happening and why, and how much you will be charged for our services. We know that our legal fees will always cost more than online divorce services, but it is an investment in you and your family’s financial, emotional and parenting future for years to come.


Human and intelligent, not artificial intelligence

An experience family lawyer also has something an online form or ‘chatbot’ will never have - intelligent empathy. Our experience of helping hundreds of divorcing couples means we can be both smart in finding solutions that minimise your risk, and also be empathetic towards the emotions and stress in your particular divorce circumstances.


Do you need our help?

Contact us to book your initial one hour reduced fee consultation with us. This gives you plenty of time to discuss your situation and receive valuable legal advice, in complete confidence and with no obligation. The majority of divorcing people who come to LGFL for an initial hour of advice do decide to engage us, for a better divorce experience with less hassle and full professional support.

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The pitfalls of “template” online divorce petitions were highlighted last week when a family court judge dismissed 28 divorce petitions submitted by one company, after noticing that the particulars of behaviour were “absolutely identical”.

Mr Justice Moor said:

“I have no alternative but to dismiss all 28 of these divorce petitions. The petitioners will simply have to start again. I hope it will be possible for them to proceed relatively quickly.”

Given that many people think submitting a “DIY” online divorce petition will save them time and money, the judge has clearly shown this may not be the case. There’s also the issue of applicants missing out on specialist legal advice from a family lawyer, and running the very real risk of not achieving the right outcome for you and your family.

“Cut and paste” divorce

The divorce petitions in this case were drafted and filed by an unregulated provider, with no individual legal advice given. The company involved used standard wording on each petition. These were then sent to the client to check and amend if there was “anything wrong”.

In the 28 cases highlighted by Deputy District Judge McHardy of the divorce unit at Bury St. Edmunds, none of the recipients made amendments. So, the submissions were absolutely identical.


Online divorce and remote family law services

There are essentially three types of online divorce services:

  • An automated website which allows you to fill in the required forms and submit them with no legal advice involved.
  • A simplified “reduced fee” online divorce service with low levels of individual legal advice, a formulaic approach and little or no personal contact.
  • A “remote” divorce service that doesn’t involve any face-to-face meetings, but otherwise is a fully personalised service including legal advice, support and transparent billing from a respected divorce law firm.

The first two options may appear quicker and/or cheaper, BUT (and it’s a big BUT), these applications are still subject to the same delays in family court hearings as any divorce application. So they are highly unlikely to be any faster than an application submitted by your lawyer.

The third option (which LGFL offers) gives you all the benefits of our personal level of service, expertise and experience, all conducted via Zoom, phone and email instead of in-person meetings. We will submit your application and keep you notified of its progress at every stage. You have the benefit of our expertise and specialism.

Why every divorce petition must be personal

As a society, we are all very accustomed to filling in forms online, even sometimes letting our PCs fill in details. This is fine for standard application forms, such as car or house insurance - if you have a “standard” home or car, of course.

However, divorce information is never “standard”. No two people, no two families, are exactly the same. No two couples want exactly the same outcome from their divorce settlement either. Online DIY divorce forms have no flexibility, and the process doesn’t include any in-person legal advice to ensure you are making your application correctly. A petition should reflect the realities of the marriage breakdown, and be written in accordance with best guidance from organisations such as Resolution.


Why personalised legal advice is crucial

Legal advice on divorce should always be tailored to your individual circumstances, so that you can achieve the best outcome for you and your family. This is at the heart of our approach at LGFL. We take time to talk through your situation, your requirements and your plans for family life beyond divorce. We make sure that you have time to understand and acquire all the information required, and submit your petition for you only after every detail has been thoroughly checked with you.


No such thing as a quickie divorce

A so-called quickie divorce may seem attractive if you are desperate to be separated and “get it over with”. However, what applies to marriage also applies to separation - “divorce in haste, repent at leisure”. A hasty, online divorce could cost you your financial stability and security moving forward, and/or allow the other party to get more than their fair share of your accumulated wealth and assets.

If you have children, there is so much more to consider. Divorce is not just about your future as separate individuals, it’s also about establishing at the future to co-parent your children and support home through to adulthood and beyond. It is about securing your family’s future and inheritance for years to come.


Passionate about proper divorces

As you can see, we feel passionately about giving you the very best advice and service at one of the most important times in your life. We also totally agree with the Law Gazette, when it describes how:

“One imagines the clients affected are thoroughly bewildered and fed up … They wanted a quick and easy process and ended up having to jump through hoops a second time. You can hardly blame them for wanting this traumatic experience over as soon as possible, but they have been let down – not just by their online provider but by a legal services framework which does …. very little to set out the risks they take by signing up with an unregulated provider.”

As a regulated law firm recommended in both the Legal500 and Chambers, you can rely on our exceptional level of service and professional integrity. Find out more about the LGFL difference, or contact us for a one-hour reduced fee consultation to discuss your particular situation, circumstances and requirements with one of our Directors.

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- Request your initial reduced fee consultation