If you type “quick divorce” into Google a series of adverts for online divorce sites appears. Each site offers to provide you with a quick divorce for an ever decreasing price, £37 here, £49 there. But are they as good as they seem? Can we believe what we are being offered?
What do the websites offer?
The online sites offer a variety of quick fixed fee packages for divorces. But do they do what they claim to do and are they in everyone’s best interests?
There are certainly those who have used these sites without difficulty but what about those who have assets and children?
“Quickie Divorce” spokesperson Jay Williams confirms “Our services are not suitable if both parties do not agree to a divorce and individuals should seek legal advice under these circumstances.
Individuals should also seek legal advice if they and their spouse are unable to agree on how their joint assets – such as property and savings – should be divided or if they are in any way concerned with any agreement that they and their spouse have reached and their implications”
He goes on to say that only when couples are able to agree such matters can DIY divorce websites provide an appropriate service.
Head of the Family Department at Best Solicitors, Wendy Bailey agrees that individuals can complete a divorce using an online service. However these should only be used in straightforward cases with no assets or children involved. The websites can provide you with the appropriate divorce papers to file at the court, but these can be obtained free of charge from the court itself. People must also be aware that the divorce itself does not take place online, the papers are filed at the court and court fees must be paid. What happens then if the court rejects the papers for incorrect drafting? Is this covered by the website or do you have to start again?
Wendy is concerned at the cases where clients have filed their own divorce papers and have then had to seek help as the court have rejected their divorce petition. Wendy explains “everyone who files for divorce must use one of five grounds, and must prove these sufficiently for the divorce to be granted. If parties have been apart for more than two years and both agree to the divorce this can be a simple process, but if using unreasonable behaviour grounds for example, the papers must be carefully drafted.”
Is a DIY divorce ever the right thing for you?
Wendy agrees that in some cases, where there are no issues to resolve, an individual can deal with their own divorce without assistance. However, if the parties have assets – a house, savings – they should seek legal advice. “Without each party declaring all of their assets how can you know what is a fair settlement for you? Some online sites offer a clean-break order package. These can be fine if both parties have no assets and there are no children. However, what if one party, often the husband, owns property etc. and does not want to give anything to the other party? Without the support of a solicitor a party can feel pressurised into accepting an agreement that is not suitable for them. A Legal Advisor is there to support you through the whole process, through every aspect, whether it is the drafting of the divorce petition, reaching a suitable agreement regarding finances or just being there when you need reassurance.”
Top tips for a smooth divorce
Wendy Bailey of Best Solicitors advises:
- Slow down. Divorce is a big step to take. Consider this carefully. When you have made the decision take things one step at a time. People can become fixated on pursuing a “quick” divorce. Rushing can cause errors which can then cause delay and further stress.
- Be pragmatic – try not to let your emotions take over and influence decisions regarding finances or children. The court is not there “to punish” people in divorce cases
- Do not go after every last penny. Stand back and take a breath. Both of you have to start again.
- Establish a good working relationship with your solicitor and your former partner, if possible. This will help thing move far more smoothly and will be far less stressful. Your solicitor is there to guide you through the process and to help you make informed decisions.