With the internet perhaps quite rightly, there is growing competition from those wishing to provide legal services, to include family law and divorce.
There are many on-line divorce services which aim to help people to obtain their own undefended divorce without using a solicitor and at an affordable rate. Such on-line providers often will work on a fixed charge basis.
I have performed a quick Google search and on one site claimed that the divorce could be initiated for “just £37” or you can have all of the divorce forms you need for “just £67”.
I do find this slightly worrying, if I can say that, because one can access all the divorce forms from the Court’s own website for free! I also wonder what “initiating” a divorce petition actually means. Is this actually the process from start to finish or is this just the start and therefore are there other fees later on? It also ignores the fact that there are court fees to pay, unless someone is exempt. Those fees are mandatory at £340 to start a divorce and £45 at the end for the Decree Absolute (which is the final divorce order).
For a specialist family lawyer an undefended divorce is a relatively straight forward matter to deal with. To a certain extent, the average person on the street would be actually capable of completing the papers and getting through the process themselves. Like any DIY job it might take slightly longer than a professional and there will always be an element of frustration.
However, no two cases are ever the same and I often wonder what happens if there is a slightly complex angle to the case, such as an international element (even based on the fact that the parties may be British but may also have dual nationality). How is this picked up on by an on-line service to the implications if the party completing the divorce papers gets something wrong? Inevitably the divorce may well proceed but there could be an impact financially.
Unfortunately, divorce is a fact of life nowadays. A lot of family lawyers are members of Resolution who wish to adopt a constructive and conciliatory approach to make the process as smooth as possible in all of the circumstances. Again, I do not know how this squares with a lot of the on-line providers and, as a separate point, it should be important to check that they are authorised and approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority as we have to adhere to a code of conduct. A divorce therefore is a process but the real skill in resolving matters and reaching a resolution not only involves that but also in dealing with the more complicated and delicate issues surrounding the family’s finances and children.
Like anything in life, you get what you pay for. A divorce and family lawyer is there to work with you and you should never be frightened or concerned about raising the issue of costs at each relevant stage. Your divorce solicitor is there to advise you and it is your right to ask questions about costs and to make sure as far as can be possible, the costs are in proportion to what is at stake. You can also ask questions such as “are there any things that you can do yourself to save costs?”
For me, it is always about helping people at a very difficult time in their life and to move forward not backward. Inevitably, there are fees to be paid. Whilst any law firm is a business, we should never lose sight of the fact that we are providing a service to the community. For a prospective client, there is no quick fix and it can be very risky to cut corners. For the lawyer, there should be no quick buck to be made. A family lawyer who is successful will build a reputation on the basis they are skilled, know their job and how to cut through a number of issues to promote an overall settlement. That can be borne out by client testimonials. To this firm, the biggest introducer of new work is actually from existing or previous client recommendations.
A “cheap” divorce can be obtained on-line therefore for £50 or £100 or so it would appear. I wonder what advice and information is actually being provided bearing in mind that what seems to be advertised are “divorce packages” with all the relevant forms; which I have said are free from the court anyway? If it is a “cheap” divorce does that mean that, for example, the financial outcome will also be “cheap”? It depends on the case and it depends on what is at stake, and that is where taking matters step by step and in proportion is clearly relevant.
Maguire Family Law is a specialist firm of Family Law and Divorce Law solicitors based in Wilmslow, Cheshire. We offer legal advice to parties going through a divorce including the financial issues which flow from this and children matters including child maintenance.
We can also advise on Schedule1 Children Act 1989 applications.