Legal Services Board to Investigate Online Divorce

The consumer watchdog for the legal industry, the Legal Services Consumer Panel, is to lead new research into the use of do it yourself online divorce offerings. It wants to look at both the risks and the challenges facing the legal firm given the increasing numbers of people logging on to do their legal work over the internet.

A few legal firms [and other non-lawyers] currently offer a download service for basic legal documents as part of their basic service, but new kids on the block such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer do nothing but create legal documents online for both individuals and business customers. It’s not completely new model, of course. You have been able to buy a blank will form from WH Smiths for just a few quid for decades now – but thankfully few people have been daft enough to take up that particular offer.

Along with the Legal Services Board, the consumer panel are to undertake new research into the online legal market and will speak to customers who have used online services to ask them to evaluate their experience. The report is expected to be out in the summer.

Many businesses and individuals still get legal advice in a traditional way, but online legal businesses are quickly starting to win a larger share of the market.

The consumer panel stressed that they understood why many people prefer to access divorce services online they are cheaper, quicker, more convenient and there is more choice. However, they also point out that there are some significant potential risks.

In response, the chairman of a leading online legal document company said that traditional law firms should be looking at the way they use online technology. Richard Cohen, who has in the past worked with Admiral Insurance and the AA, told an industry conference that he believed that many in the legal profession felt “threatened” by technological advances. He may be right. However technology doesn’t frighten us here at Bonallack and Bishop – we are convinced that technology will play an increasing role in the future production of legal documents – and that’s a good thing for consumers, provided, and this is a big proviso, that clients are getting the right advice they need. Just being provided with a blank form and being to get on with it yourself is certainly not the answer. It is being seen to see what the legal services consumer panel, and how the interests of consumers of legal services will be protected in the digital age.

However, while some areas of law will be increasingly driven by technology – divorce and family law may well buck the trend. Relationship breakdown involves often highly complex issues, not to mention strong emotions. For the foreseeable future, we think that family mediation will continue to form the best way forward for many separating couples.

Call our specialist Family Mediation and Collaborative Law Divorce Solicitors today

SALISBURY [01722] 422300

AMESBURY [01980] 622992

ANDOVER [01264] 364433

OR e-mail our team using the email contact form below


    Good news for the growth of family mediation and collaborative law

    According to a survey published today by Resolution [the nationwide association of 6500 specialist family lawyers], a full 53% of the 2018 British people surveyed would prioritise making any divorce as free of conflict as they can. The survey was carried out by ComRes as part of Resolution’s Family Dispute Resolution Week which aims at highlighting the availability of non confrontational approaches to family disputes, such as collaborative law and family mediation.

    However, as evidence that the collaborative law and mediation messages still have a long way to go, 45% of those surveyed, believed that most divorces inevitably involve a trip to court. Again the good news is that reality is quite different. With regard to financial issues, which are at the centre of most divorce disputes, our family law and divorce team see under 3% of them involving any form of contested final hearing – though a larger percentage do involve some element of court attendance prior to a settlement being reached.

    In addition to greater public awareness of these non-confrontational approaches, recent figures provided by Resolution show that the use of family mediation actually increased by 51% in 2011 compared with 2010.

    What was also interesting from the survey was that most headlines concentrated on the number of people saying children should come first in any divorce. The press release from Resolution which accompanied the release of the survey had as its headline “Four out of five people say children should come first in divorce”. What was worrying, however, was that on checking the actual survey figures, the remaining 22% did not believe that children should be put first or even second when it came to resolving a divorce! Absolutely staggering. It seems, therefore, that however keen many family lawyers are to take the heat out of divorce, and ensure that the interests of children are prioritised, a significant number of the public still don’t get it.

    If you live in Wiltshire and you’re going through a divorce, civil partnership dissolution or any form of relationship breakdown or dispute, we recommend family mediation and collaborative law as positive ways to approach resolution of your problem – call our specialist lawyers today for FREE initial legal advice and a FREE 30 minute appointment.

    Participation Agreement – the key document in Collaborative law

    Collaborative law enables couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and other professionals in order to obtain a settlement which best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children outside of Court and without contested litigation.

    Collaborative law is a voluntary process initiated when a couple signs a ‘Participation Agreement’, a contract legally binding them to the process and disqualifying their respective lawyers’ right to represent either in any future family-related litigation.

    The parties and their collaborative lawyers agree that:

    • all concerned will behave courteously and in good faith

    • each party will freely disclose all pertinent information and not conceal any facts

    • if the settlement process fails, the original lawyers must withdraw and the parties select new lawyers

    • neither party will take advantage of mistakes by the other side

    • the content matter of the settlement meetings remains confidential

    Collaborative law can also be used to facilitate other family issues, such as disputes between parents and the drawing up of pre and post-marital contracts. In the case of the former, many couples prefer to embark on married life by drawing up documents consensually.

    Since both lawyers would lose their clients if an agreement was not reached, it is in their interests to encourage them to cooperate and find solutions that honour the concerns of both parties. Other advantages are that it encourages mutual respect, provides for open communication, utilises a problem-solving approach and prepares individuals for their new lives.

    New collaborative lawyer

    We are absolutely committed to the whole concept of both family mediation and collaborative law. For those people who take a balanced view and you’re looking to secure a fair and sensible outcome for all concerned, we think that both mediation and collaborative law are the way forward – and we have no doubt that both approaches are going to increase in popularity as more and more people become aware of them.

    That’s why were absolutely delighted that another member of our team has now become fully qualified as a collaborative lawyer. Kate Scammell, who is based in our Andover office [but who is also available to see clients both in Amesbury, Northampton, Milton Keynes and Rugby], is a specialist family and divorce lawyer and what’s more, we’ve got plans for her to qualify shortly as a family mediator as well.