Family Law seems to be surrounded by misunderstandings and misconceptions, common law spouse, quickie divorce and now the cheap divorce, some as low as £35, on line.
It is, of course, understandable that anyone going through a divorce wants to save money. However is it a case of you get what you pay for? In this case, yes. The do- it- yourself route looks like a cheap option but there are many pitfalls.
The cheap quotes for divorces on line do not state the additional costs. There is an issue fee of £410 paid to the Court in all divorces.
The £35 fee inevitably only covers filing the Divorce petition and not dealing with any potential difficulties once the petition has been issued, for example if the other party won’t acknowledge receiving the divorce papers or opposes the divorce. In both such circumstances the procedure becomes more complicated and will increase the costs involved.
In addition the cheap quotes on line will not include resolving finances or arrangements for children.
If arrangements for finances are agreed the arrangements can be summarised in a “Financial Remedy Order” and sealed by a Judge. This effectively finalises financial arrangements. If an order is not obtained and financial matters are left open either party could make a claim at a future date, even after the divorce. In most cases it is essential for financial matters to be agreed so that both parties can move on. Even if this involves arrangements which will take place later, for example, a property is not to be sold for a number of years. A confirmed agreement now ensures no misunderstandings. Legal advice for such financial agreements is vital for them to be binding, it is obviously important for all concerned to understand what they are agreeing to and potentially what they are giving up. In paying for legal advice on such issues you are getting the solicitors experience and legal knowledge. The Solicitor will be able to advise on what is fair and reasonable and when it makes sense to compromise. The majority of cases are agreed between the parties themselves at this stage and do not go to Court for the Judge to make a decision, which is when costs can escalate. Referrals can also be made to Mediation and matters can also be dealt with Collaboratively, a method whereby both parties and their respective solicitors have joint meetings to discuss matters together to reach an agreed settlement.
It is not the case therefore that involving solicitors necessarily means matters will become acrimonious and go to court.
Similarly with arrangements for children, legal advice can provide essential information on what would be relevant to the Court in making arrangements as to where a child lives and how often they should see each parent. It is often the wrangling on such issues without focusing on what the Court can and can’t take into account can that increase costs dramatically. It is this knowledge that a solicitor can provide.
The fee may sound attractive therefore but in reality you are not getting a divorce for £35. The divorce papers maybe completed for you but this is only a small part of the process and is unlikely to ensure you get the outcome you want and are entitled to.
It is also important to consider what happens if things go wrong. Does the service have insurance, are they regulated, is there a complaints procedure?. The work of solicitors is very carefully monitored and regulated as is their training and maintaining professional standards. If you are thinking of using an on line service please ask yourself what it is you are paying for.