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”.
“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 “fixed 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 fixed fee consultation to discuss your particular situation, circumstances and requirements with one of our Directors.
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