The legal consumer watchdog is preparing to take a closer look into online divorce documents. The research planned by the Legal Services Consumer Panel aims to assess the risks and challenges of accessing divorce legal services online.

The cuts to legal aid mean that funding for family law cases is largely no longer available and recent trends have shown that thousands of people are  now logging on for so-called  ‘DIY divorces’.

In the right circumstances, an online divorce service can be a cost effective and hassle-free option.

However, there are many cases where it just isn’t suitable e.g. if the divorce is not agreed, or there are significant issues on which you need full legal advice. When considering whether an online divorce is right for you try to keep the following issues in mind:

The pros:

•    Appears to be less hassle – if you choose a managed divorce where the online service completes all the forms and sends them to court for you
•    Can be quicker
•    Potentially Cost-effective
•    Flexible as can be done online outside of work hours

The cons:

•    Not necessarily as cheap as you are led to believe, once court fees are factored in
•    Services vary in quality and price.
•    The legal services market is crowded so there are a number of untried or less experienced providers seeking your business
•    Your case simply may not be suitable for an online managed service – if you need legal advice on the division of your assets or if your spouse/civil partner won’t agree. Online divorce services are never suitable if the divorce is not agreed.

The consumer panel and Legal Services Board have now jointly commissioned research and plan to interview consumers for first hand experience of the quality of service. The study will be reported on in the summer.

Whilst it is clear that online divorce certainly has its place, there are potential pitfalls for the unwary. DIY divorce may appear cheap on paper but it can prove to be expensive in the long run.

Farleys has a team of experienced family law solicitors specialising in helping you through the process of a divorce. Our divorce lawyers offer competitive fixed fee rates for an uncontested (agreed) divorce with no hidden cost surprises!