According to research by the Legal Services Board (LSB), unregulated divorce services provide up to 13% of the market. And while on the surface these providers appear to offer cheaper rates or quicker options for separating couples, complaints from users reveal that couples feel they were misled by advertising claims or ended up making uninformed choices about their divorce.
In some cases, unregulated providers offering managed and DIY services cut corners in order to speed up the process and lower the cost, but this can lead to difficulties later down the line which incur further costs and stress. Unless a case is extremely straightforward, DIY divorces are simply unsuitable for the majority of couples. When there are complicated issues such as the custody of children and the division of property, financial assets, or businesses, a cut-price do-it-yourself option is unlikely to offer the provision you need for a secure and final settlement.
Chief executive of The Law Society Catherine Dixon commented on the importance of using a fully regulated divorce provider: “If legal services are purchased from a solicitor, buyers can rest assured that the service is fully regulated, that insurance is in place, and that in the event that something goes wrong they have the right to redress.
“Unfortunately, however, it is not always clear to consumers whether they are buying from a regulated provider. As the LSB research shows, there are a number of unregulated providers supplying the same legal services as solicitors and many buyers simply will not know that they won’t get the same level of protection from an unregulated provider if something goes wrong.”
No one should have to go through the stress and upset of revisiting a divorce case when they thought all was said and done, and The Law Society suggests that there should be safeguards in place to protect separating couples from unregulated providers using the title ‘lawyer’, which is not currently protected: “We think that you should only be able to call yourself a lawyer if you are a qualified legal practitioner. We are concerned that many consumers may not know the difference, which can leave them exposed.”
Heading into an unregulated DIY divorce without the right expertise and support can lead to greater costs in the long run to fix issues that might have been avoided had you used a professional solicitor in the first instance.
Catherine Dixon continues: “The expertise of solicitors comes from rigorous training. They work to professional standards, are regulated, have insurance, and their clients have access to redress if services do not meet the required high standard.
“There are obvious benefits in improved, consistent price and service transparency in advertising across all suppliers of legal services, whether regulated or unregulated. Solicitors are also bound by a code of conduct which ensures they are transparent about pricing with a client before beginning work.”
Your first point of call when making the decision to separate is to find an experienced solicitor accredited by The Law Society and discuss the best solution for your unique circumstances. One size does not fit all when it comes to the delicate, highly personal issue of divorce, and you have the right to work with a lawyer you can rely on.
For more advice on divorce and separation, get in touch with the family law team at Frances Lindsay & Co to speak with a Resolution-trained solicitor.