The Edinburgh legal firm says that numerous websites are now offering “low-cost” online divorces, which are proving popular with couples who are put off spending money on legal advice during their separation. Many people view the DIY option as a way of dodging fees and as a method of speeding up the divorce proceedings. But Gibson Kerr, which specialises in Scottish family law issues including divorces, wills and powers of attorney, stresses that using an online service is a risky step, as the documents are often poorly written and contain hidden costs – meaning that there is little or no financial benefit to using them.
Fiona Rasmusen, Partner at Gibson Kerr, said that it was vital that separating couples get proper legal advice when considering divorce proceedings in order to agree a settlement that would suit both parties. She said: “There are plenty of online firms offering quick divorces, and it can be tempting to choose these rather than getting a lawyer to advise you. If your separation is amicable, you may think that you can save some money by choosing the online option but, in reality, you’re putting yourself at risk. “Online divorces are fraught with danger. You may be unaware of your legal rights to claim money or property on a divorce and, once you are divorced, it will probably be too late to make such a claim. Therefore, it is very important that before embarking on a divorce action, you take proper legal advice from an experienced solicitor so that you know what your rights are.
“Without such advice, you may end up with an informal agreement that does not hold up in court or that – on reflection – is not fair and reasonable. You also run the risk of filling the forms out incorrectly or not making your agreement clear enough, and you may also end up paying legal costs further down the line to sort out the mess that an online divorce leaves you in. “If you are divorcing on the grounds of separation and you have already resolved all financial issues, you can actually arrange a simplified divorce yourself by contacting the Sheriff Clerk in your area. You have no need to approach any online company to do this for you. Many people will instruct a solicitor to negotiate a fair and binding financial settlement for them and then they can organise the actual divorce themselves directly with the Sheriff Clerk.
“Getting divorced usually involves far more than just the process of dissolving a marriage. Instructing your solicitor to achieve a sensible and lasting agreement or order which will provide you with security in the future, or ensure that proper arrangements are in place for your children, is an investment you cannot afford to ignore.”
Gibson Kerr is a family-run law firm that has been established in Edinburgh for more than 100 years. It has an excellent reputation for providing a comprehensive service encompassing both property and personal law, including powers of attorney, executries and wills.