There are an ever increasing number of website links that appear on a Google search for “online divorce”. When some sites offer a divorce for as little as £37, and say that the divorce could be completed within a matter of weeks, it is easy to understand why people are tempted to choose this route, rather than approaching a specialist family lawyer.
However, on closer inspection many of these sites offer differing levels of service, and the cheapest may in fact only provide you with copies of the Court documentation, which can in fact be obtained free from the Court itself. It also often takes a little digging to learn that the advertised fee doesn’t include the Court fee of £410!
Some websites promise a quick divorce, “within a matter of weeks”. In reality, although the procedure for divorce is fairly straightforward, provided both parties co-operate, it does take a time, and there may be very good reasons not to finalise the divorce as soon as you are able, for example to preserve pension rights whilst future financial arrangements are agreed and implemented.
The Petitioner (the person who asks for the divorce) will send a divorce petition to the Court. Provided it has been filled out correctly (and beware, there are traps!) the petition is sent to the Respondent who must complete an Acknowledgment of Service, which is returned to the Court. Once the Petitioner receives a copy of the Acknowledgement, they complete a statement and make an application for Decree Nisi. If both parties co-operate fully then it might be possible to get to this stage within about 4 weeks. Provided all is in order, the Court then set a date for pronouncement of the Decree Nisi – usually two to three weeks after the application is made. Once the Decree Nisi has been pronounced, the well known 6 week period between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute kicks in.
Even when both parties co-operate fully it is unlikely that a divorce will be concluded within less than three months.
It is not uncommon for people who have just separated to be very keen to get divorced and move on with their lives as quickly as possible, not least because many find separation such a painful experience. In reality though, unless there is complete co-operation between the parties, then there are often many points along the way that can cause difficulty without specialist guidance.
What on-line services will often not provide is the essential, specialist advice required about all the other issues that come with separation – How will we divide up our money? Who is going to live in the house? Where are the children going to live?
Care must also be taken if you choose to use an on-line provider. The majority do not have professional indemnity insurance and are operating without regulation. That may not appear a problem, but the risk is that if something should go wrong, there will be no recourse through a regulator, and although fees will have been paid it may still be necessary for a specialist divorce lawyer to become involved to unpick what has been done.
Arguably, online divorce has its place, and perhaps if you are a couple who have been married for a very short period of time, have completely separate finances, and have no children, then it may well be something that is worth looking at. There is also a place for a DIY divorce. Some couples very successfully conduct their divorce themselves but, importantly, then seek specialist advice when it comes to matters concerning the finances or the children.
What is crucial in resolving matters after separation is that both parties have the time and advice to make informed decisions. The choices made during this very emotional and difficult time will impact on both parties’ future. We at the Family Law Co are able to navigate you through what can be a minefield for the unwary and ill-informed. We have trained experts to assist you with resolving finances, including pensions, and arrangements for your children. We also offer a very reasonable fixed fee divorce service, which makes all of the costs, including the Court fee, clear upfront, and helps ensure that the divorce process itself is straightforward and as swift as is practical. Speak to one of our divorce solicitors in Exeter or Plymouth to find out more.