Legal aid is public money that a person needing legal assistance can apply for to help pay all or part of their legal fees. The list of legal problems for which legal aid is available has reduced in recent years and divorce is one of the areas in question. Legal aid is no longer available to pay the legal costs of divorce (or dissolution of a marriage) unless there has been:
- domestic abuse (including financial abuse)
- violence, or
- child abduction.
This is a very short list and means that the vast majority of people who want to get a divorce must meet the costs of doing so themselves. This deters many people from getting specialist advice from a lawyer.
A number of organisations have sprung up which a simple internet search will find that offer a wide range of services on legal matters and one such organisation offers assistance with divorce. However, it has recently been reported that a judge in the family court has thrown out 28 separate divorce applications, which have been submitted by this one organisation on the basis that the statements made to support the application for divorce were identical to each other. Unsurprisingly, the judge pointed out that it was impossible for the situations described in each of the 28 applications to be exactly the same. The result for the parties using the services of this organisation is that they will have to start again with their divorce proceedings. Frankly, divorce is stressful enough without having to face this situation.
What many consumers fail to realise is that law firms are regulated. This means that those offering legal advice must adhere to a Code of Conduct and have Professional Indemnity insurance in place to protect members of the public from loss if the law firm makes a mistake. Consumers may not realise that they are dealing with an unregulated organisation such as the 28 people who wanted a swift divorce. These people will have little or no redress, despite the fact that the unregulated divorce provider has clearly not acted in their best interests.
The decree of divorce itself is also only one half of the story for many couples who are splitting up. Obtaining the divorce should be the most straightforward part of the process. Dealing with the financial settlement between the parties can be much more difficult and long winded. If a party wanting a divorce does not take specialist legal advice, they may not even realise that the finances also need to be dealt with.
Consumers can realise when it is too late that they get what they pay for.
To discuss this or any other matrimonial matter, contact us.