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Online divorces a false economy, solicitor claims

Date:14 OCT 2009

Cash-strapped couples who have reached the end of the road in their relationship are increasingly turning to divorce websites in an attempt to save money, but family lawyer Angela Davis of Nottingham law firm Berryman, warns such websites could be a simple case of false economy.

"In these difficult economic times, many divorcing couples are tempted to look to the internet and consider using an online divorce provider in an attempt to save on finances at what is already a difficult time," Ms Davis said. "However, many of the forms and guidance notes available on these websites are in fact readily available free of charge from the local county court office, something few of these websites make clear".

Online divorce sites usually carry numerous disclaimers making it clear that they are not your lawyer and are just assisting you by preparing the papers on your behalf. "Essentially, using an online website means you actually represent yourself and act as your own lawyer", Ms Davis said.

Ms Davis is finding that she increasingly has to take over cases for clients who initially began their divorce proceedings online. "In the last few weeks, I have recently been asked to help out in two separate cases where the divorcing parties had initially instigated divorce proceedings through using internet providers. In each of these cases the internet providers were based in Wales and presumably as a consequence divorce proceedings were issued in Welsh Courts. Divorce proceedings can be issued in any court in England and Wales and do not have to be issued in a court where the parties live. However, in both cases, the internet provider failed to forewarn the parties that should there be any dispute regarding financial matters any financial application would have to be made in the same court which dealt with the divorce.

"Problems have now arisen with the finances, and the clients are now faced with the prospect of travelling to Wales to have these claims addressed - something they understandably do not relish. This also has cost implications for them all. So what appeared on the face of it to be a 'cheap divorce' in the short term could now prove to cost considerably more in the longer term."