The Risks of Unregulated Providers in Divorce

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26 October, 2021

Rachael Sutcliffe

At present, if you have been separated from your spouse for less than 2 years and wish to move forward with a divorce, you must satisfy the court that the marriage has broken down irretrievably based upon one of 2 facts. Your spouse has committed adultery, or they have acted in such a way that the court cannot reasonably expect you to live with them.

The most common ground for divorce, is unreasonable behaviour. This is subjective, as every person will have a different view as to what behaviour constitutes as being unreasonable. For example, in some marriages, it may be that one spouse is responsible with dealing with the finances. This may work perfectly for that couple and would not perhaps be seen as unreasonable behaviour. However, it may become unreasonable if that spouse then starts to make all financial decisions without first speaking with the other if they start to hide financial transactions or are not open and honest about their financial circumstances.

Due to the subjective nature of 'unreasonable behaviour' it is rare to have any two divorce petitions which are similar, and you would assume that it would be almost impossible for any petitions to be exactly the same.

However, the court has recently dismissed 28 separate divorce petitions which had been filed at court by the same online unregulated provider, as the examples of unreasonable behaviour were "absolutely identical". Mr Justice Moor concluded that it would be almost impossible for all 28 of the respondents to have acted in exactly the same way. The examples of unreasonable behaviour were set out in an identical manner over some 145 words. Mr Justice Moor stated that the petitions were "improper".

The director of iDivorces, Mr Eastham, informed the court that they used standard wording in their divorce petitions, and they had provided their clients with a copy of the same. Mr Eastham further said that all 28 clients had returned the standard petitions without requesting any amendments. Justice Moor J told Mr Eastham that it was clear that they had not progressed matters in the correct way.

Due to this, the court had no option but to dismiss all 28 petitions meaning that the petitioners would have to start again from the beginning.

This highlights the potential risks of a client using an unregulated provider to assist with their divorce. An unregulated provider does not have to comply with the SRA Code of Conduct. Some of the providers set out on their websites that they comply, but this is misleading. The SRA does not regulate these providers, and they are not authorised. They are therefore exempt from SRA supervision. This supervision is designed to ensure that all firms comply with certain standards.

Due to the way that they are set up, there is no requirement for any of the case workers to be solicitors, and therefore many do not have legal training or in-depth knowledge of the law and procedure surrounding the divorce process.

Whilst it may be tempting to use an unregulated provider due to their reduced costs, they may not be able to provide you with the advice and support that a fully regulated firm would.

From April 2022, the court will be introducing the no-fault divorce. This means that neither party will have to blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership. This is currently only available for parties who have been separated for more than 2 years.

For more information contact Rachael Sutcliffe in our Family/Divorce department via email or phone on 01772 220 022. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Family/Divorce department here

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