Dodgy divorces – the sequel

28 couples have recently discovered the downside of using an unregulated divorce adviser rather than a solicitor. Their divorce petitions have been dismissed by the court as each petition contained exactly the same very detailed allegation about the behaviour of the respondent.

You can read the brief and rather painful judgment of Mr Justice Moor here.

The divorce company involved is not a firm of solicitors. This is not always immediately obvious to non-lawyers. They assume that the word lawyer and solicitor are synonymous, but they are not. All solicitors are lawyers, but not all lawyers are solicitors. Whenever I hear anybody described in the media as being a “lawyer”, I immediately want to know what sort of lawyer they are. Are they a solicitor? A barrister? A legal executive? Or somebody without any legal qualifications whatsoever?

Any individual or business which holds themselves out to be a solicitor when they are not is committing a criminal offence. There are an increasing number of providers of legal services who market themselves to people as being a cheap alternative to solicitors. Some tend to be vague about whether or not they are solicitors. The online divorce provider in this case has a website which does not appear to claim that they are solicitor. There is no clickable SRA logo which all law firms in England and Wales must have. To be fair, I cannot even see the word lawyer anywhere on their site. The site does have some very small print saying that if necessary they can refer clients to an experienced family solicitor, but this is not the same as being a solicitor. However, when I did a Google search for them recently, to my surprise, the Google result showed them describing themselves as “Cheap Divorce Law Solicitors”.

They may therefore be committing a criminal offence. I shall be charitable and assume that whoever does their Google Ads did not understand the difference and that this business is not deliberately trying to hold themselves out as solicitors.

This is not the first time that the court has taken this kind of drastic step. In 2014, the President of the family division, Mr Justice Munby, set aside a huge number of divorces obtained by people who were living in Italy and where the English court had no jurisdiction to grant a divorce. Those Italian divorcees were trying to avoid the lengthy Italian divorce process by divorcing in England and used a frankly dodgy divorce provider to do so. One can only hope that they had not remarried in the meantime, based on their fraudulent divorces.

It is always very tempting to go for the cheap option. Regrettably, getting divorced is not an inexpensive process. Splitting up can be expensive even if you don’t use a solicitor. However, the reality is that you get what you pay for. If you pay a pittance to an unregulated, uninsured and inexperienced legal provider, you run the risk that you end up with nothing.

If you would like to arrange a consultation with Armstrong Family Law, please telephone (01206) 848426 or click here

Comments are closed.