Friday, 18 January 2019

Online divorce is no quick fix

Shropshire couples facing a relationship breakdown have been urged to steer clear of quick-fix divorce proceedings online.

Gemma Himsworth, who leads the family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford and Shrewsbury, made the appeal during one of the peak times of the year for divorce applications.

“January is notoriously busy when it comes to divorce proceedings being launched – and in fact, Christmas itself was one of the busiest ever with 13 people completing online applications on Christmas Day.

“Altogether there were 455 online divorce applications submitted between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, and this month we’ve seen the usual annual spike in enquiries in person at our offices.”

Mrs Himsworth said couples should be cautious though about using the online procedure as it only dealt with the marriage, and not with financial matters or issues relating to children.

“It’s all well and good filling in an application online, uploading documents and paying fees over the internet, but this kind of fully digital divorce will not suit everyone. You won’t receive advice online about the legal implications of divorce, and you won’t be able to make sure that any necessary paperwork is completed correctly.

“So although it may seem tempting to try to do everything online in order to speed up the process and make things less complicated, you may actually be creating a situation that causes real problems as the divorce moves forward.”

Mrs Himsworth urged couples to seek professional advice to sort out the finer details of divorce in order to protect themselves from future legal action.

“For instance, if a couple gets divorced but doesn’t deal with their finances in a recognised legal agreement, they could be storing up trouble – it means they will still have claims against one another, including on any assets they acquire after the marriage is over or on any inheritance they may receive.

“And in an extreme case where maybe one of them wins the lottery, then arguably their former spouse could still make a claim.”

The online divorce system was introduced in April last year, and it allows spouses to complete a divorce application over the internet.

“It does not replace existing paper-based applications, but for some people it provides a quicker and easier service – couples though should be careful and should not hesitate to seek out expert advice if they’re unsure of how to proceed.”