Legal aid cuts and diy divorce..what is the problem?
I am going to be appearing on the Radio 4 consumer affairs programme, “You and Yours” tomorrow to discuss the worries of a Solicitor who is saying that the cuts to legal aid are going to drive consumers into the arms of diy divorce websites and that this in itself is going to be very damaging for consumers as they are not regulated and there will be horrendous problems afterwards with lawyers having to unravel mistakes made by diy divorce websites.
I am somewhat surprised that Solicitors are only now starting to take notice of us considering we have been around for 11 years or so and my suspicion is that it is the impending loss of business coupled with the introduction of alternative business structures in October that is actually driving them to start complaining now.
The biggest argument I can find in blogs and in a few news articles on the subject is that financial claims may be left out of petitions because people will not understand the implications of the “ancillary relief” paragraph and wives in particular may find they cannot make claims after the divorce has been made absolute.
Well, I can’t speak for some of the document mills that have arrived in our space but at Divorce-Online we keep the paragraph in by default and specifically warn our customers not to remove the paragraph and what it all means. Indeed it is probably our most common question by e-mail or telephone.
Many diy divorce websites also outsource consent order services to Solicitors who of course are regulated by the SRA and are subject to the LSO where complaints are made.
On to the legal aid cuts driving people to diy divorce websites, I personally think this will not be the case because diy divorce websites only deal with cases where the parties are in 100% agreement and the majority of legal aid cases are in some form of dispute.
The business model does not work online for contested cases and I suspect that it will be sites such as wikivorce that will get the do-it-yourself litigants who will be looking for advice on how to conduct their own ancillary relief cases.
My personal view is that the burden of these cuts will fall on the Court Service who will have to re-train their staff and judiciary to deal with litigants in person.