Legal aid changes could encourage the rise of the 'quickie' divorce

In last weeks blog post we reported on government changes to the legal aid system which came into effect at the start of April.

Fears are now being expressed by some family law firms that the withdrawal of public funding for divorce cases could lead to a rise in the number of couples using internet divorce services to end their marriages.

These concerns come as an survey carried out by ICM found that over a fifth of couples in their 20s would choose to use an online divorce service in an effort to save money.

The government is hoping to cut £350 million a year from the current £2.2 billion legal aid bill and legislation came into effect last week that withdraws public funding from civil cases including divorces. However government ministers insist that legal aid will still be available for “those who most need it.”

Young couples who are already wary of the high costs traditionally associated with divorce are particularly likely to look for less costly alternatives. More than a quarter of those who responded to the survey reported being put off the thought of divorce because they believed the process to be very expensive.

There are a couple of online divorce website offering ‘quickie’ divorces for as low as £37. However, it is important to stress that these services are unlikely to include safeguards such as financial orders which can prevent ex-spouses from making unlimited claims in the future.

The ICM survey was carried out on 2000 men and women between August and September last year. The survey found that 28% of those asked would be put off divorce by the size of legal costs. 11% of the men and women who took part in the survey said that they would not use a solicitor if they decided to get divorced.

A spokesman from the Ministry of Justice said: “At nearly £2 billion a year we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world. Even after the reforms we will still be spending around £1.7 billion a year on legal aid – £700 million on civil and family cases.

“Legal aid will still be provided in cases where domestic violence is involved, where people’s life or liberty is at stake, where they are at risk of physical harm or the loss of their home.

“But in many civil or family disputes – like divorce – people are generally arguing about facts, rather than the law, and so court should be a last resort. Mediation is a far simpler and cheaper approach for everyone and leads to better outcomes.”

At Dovetail we believe that it’s very important for couples to understand the cost of their divorce from the outset which is why we offer a ‘fixed-fee’ divorce. Our online divorce cost calculator, unique in the UK, can be used to give a quick, accurate quote for the price of your divorce.

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