In 2018, if someone doesn’t have a Facebook account, you’re pretty much convinced that they’ve either travelled forward in time from the Middle Ages, or they are secretly Dr Who. The vast majority of celebrities and business people ‘tweet’ each other daily, everyone is bothered about how many ‘likes’ their Instagram post gets and coming up with a ‘trending hashtag’ is basically the new Nobel Prize.
There isn’t much that you can’t buy or do on the internet these days; shopping, dating, working, gaming, banking and studying to name a few. However, there are certain things that can’t or indeed, shouldn’t, be done on the internet, divorce being one of them.
The Government reported that 30,482 divorce petitions were filed between April and June 2016. Additionally, 29,292 decrees absolutes were granted in the same period, which has increased by around 10% from the same quarter in 2015. Of these figures, 11,841 applications were made to the Court to come to an agreement on financial affairs; this was a 13% increase from the equivalent quarter in 2015.
A common perception of divorce is of bitter fights in Court. However, many companies have latched on to the ‘internet age’ and devised a ‘quick fix’ for irretrievably broken down marriages, where parties don’t have to be in the same country to issue a divorce petition, never mind in the same room.
In theory, an online divorce could save people time and money however; there are a number of key things to consider before you rush into paying your ‘DIY Divorce Service for £59’.
An eye-catching banner stating ‘£59!’ is much more appealing that a solicitors’ estimate letter of £900 +VAT. However, there are always hidden costs and risks to consider when going for the cheaper option. Having spoken to a representative at a leading provider, their DIY Divorce Service for £59 is a very popular option, especially in the run up to Christmas. This is merely a drafting service. What many of the websites fail to mention is that the Petitioner must still pay the £550 issue fee to the Court and they will not be advised on how or where to claim costs from their soon to be ex-husband or wife.
The most important and noteworthy flaw in online divorces is the matter of sorting out finances .As stated by Kay Masters, Accredited Specialist Family Lawyer and Head of Department at Hall Smith Whittingham, “Many people assume that once they are divorced there are no outstanding financial claims. This is not the case! You may still have financial claims against each other after your divorce has been made absolute.”
Couples who act for themselves in a divorce often fail to appreciate that ALL assets in a marriage are relevant and could potentially be the subject of a financial claim. It is extremely important that both parties are advised on their potential claims against their former partner’s income, savings and properties bought both in and out of the relationship. Furthermore, many people are unaware that the Court can make adjustments to pension provisions. This is a very complex area of law which requires specialist legal advice.
It is becoming increasingly more frequent that couples get divorced online, and then seek legal advice to sort out their finances. This method of separation is far more complex, thus more costly and would never be recommended by lawyers who would always advise finalising a consent order in respect of finances before decree absolute is pronounced.
Many people do not realise that if they get a ‘quickie divorce’ online, then re-marry, they may lose the right to make a financial claim against their former partner. Furthermore, they may think that their ex-partner will never make a claim against them and then get stung.
Maybe the most surprising thing about filing for a divorce online is that it doesn’t guarantee that you won’t end up in Court. After reading the forms filed by the online provider, the Judge might find it necessary to speak to one or both of the parties. This is especially true in cases where there are children and complex financial agreements involved.
Although these companies’ websites may look genuine, they could be a scam! Often for example, companies charge you a fee to obtain the relevant paperwork (for around £37) when the exact same forms are available to download for free online.
Remember, these online providers are NOT lawyers. They simply fill out the paperwork and file it at Court. If you have specific questions about the divorce process, distribution of property, child contact and especially pension issues, you need to seek proper legal advice.
DIY divorces may look cheap, but they can be expensive in the long run if you settle for less than you are worth without obtaining proper advice. At Hall Smith Whittingham, we always take steps to ensure that clients don’t run up large bills and we make judgements based on the feasibility of claims based on needs and what finances are available.
If you are thinking of separating from your partner, or you wish to pursue a divorce, contact us today on 01270 610300 (Nantwich) or 01270 212000 (Crewe). We offer ALL clients a free initial meeting to consider your next steps and options that are available to you. Contact one of our Family Lawyers today for your free initial meeting.