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What is a Managed Divorce

What is a ‘Managed Divorce’

The Coop recently suggested that solicitors should stop charging for divorce work on an hourly basis. It’s an excellent idea and one that we have been committed to for the past 11 years. Indeed we first introduced our fixed fee fixed price divorce to the market in 2002. What this means is that you pay the fee agreed at the start of the matter. We cannot and do not hype our fees half way through. The only exception to this is if the matter becomes unduly complicated. That occurs very very rarely. In all the years we have conducted these fixed fee divorces for our clients there have been few occasions when we have had to ask clients to pay additional fees over and above those initially agreed. If indeed that ever happens, we always provide the client with a comprehensive explanation for the change in circumstances and have never had a single client fail to recognise that their matter genuinely and significantly changed during the course of the work.

But what about managed divorces? These are very popular with some people and can be purchased online for relatively modest prices. The consumer can be forgiven for wondering what they are getting for our fixed fee divorce and what they are not getting for a managed divorce from an online provider. Well, the answer is quite simple. Our divorce package is conducted by a solicitor and you will have the same level of service and attendance provided for a fixed fee divorce as you would have were you paying us an hourly fee rate. We take all the important information from you and conduct the whole job on your behalf. At every stage your solicitor will communicate with you, as a real person, by telephone, by email and whenever necessary face-to-face. We will explain every legal stage, prepare all your documents for you and take full responsibility for whatever happens. Indeed we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and we are insured accordingly. As responsible legal advisers we are totally accountable for what we do. Therefore if we were to get it wrong, and I am delighted to say that has never happened, you have a real solution available. You can complain against us, get compensation from our insurers and even have us shut down if we are blatantly negligent. Looking at it from our perspective, we certainly are taking some risks with every divorce case we take on. We must be certain of what we are doing and moreover certain that what we are doing is right for you, our client!

So returning to the ‘managed divorce’ scenario, what exactly are they providing you? Well, we don’t really know the answer to that question. We know they sell you the divorce petition forms. Albeit that these are free to download online from the Ministry of Justice website. They also send you a brochure telling you how to fill in the form; but then again that guidance is also available from the Ministry of Justice website. Managed divorce companies do send you some glossy online brochures. Unfortunately we don’t. We just send you letters detailing all the processes and telling you what is happening. Therefore we certainly miss out on the glossy brochure part. Perhaps we will rethink that aspect of our system soon. But apart from the glossy brochure, which we stress is online and not printed anyway, what else are you getting from a ‘managed divorce’ website? Well the answer is on the site profile. They are DIY divorce merchants. That means it is a Do It Yourself Divorce. Therefore you Do It Yourself. They don’t do it for you. If that suits your temperament and your budget that all very well. We won’t deny that some people are happy doing it that way. But those same people could save even more money by buying a divorce pack from WH Smiths. Those only cost £20. Better still just download the forms and do it yourself for free. Why pay anything at all to anyone? After all the ‘managed divorce’ websites are not providing you with a solicitor. Some ‘managed divorce’ websites do have a single lawyer employed to meet the regulations. But the work will be conducted by tens if not hundreds of telephone staff. The lawyer will never see your file let alone represent you.

However; if you want peace of mind, satisfaction in knowing that legalities are being dealt with properly, on time and with your personal best interests at heart; indeed if you want to be certain that every aspect of the process is being negotiated in your favour and that your financial position and potential liabilities to your ex-spouse are addressed, then you would be our ideal client. Although some aspects of a divorce are straightforward and relatively simple, not all of it is like that. We recently represented a client who had purchased a cheap online ‘managed divorce’ 3 years ago. At the time, he was delighted and during the divorce process he settled the financial aspects of the divorce by paying his wife £160,000. Unfortunately for him his ex-wife came back 3 years later and claimed an additional £290,000 off him because the first settlement had never been set out legally and filed at court by his online ‘managed divorce’ advisers. It was a painful example of what can go wrong. Had he been represented by a solicitor that could never have happened, and indeed if it did then compensation for the additional claim and probably even for all his legal fees was not far away. In the circumstances though the managed divorce company got away by relying on a clause in their online terms of service which cleared them of all responsibility. It was one of those terms that appear on an obscure page of the website which nobody visits. All he did was check the box that says ‘I have read and accept the terms of service’.

If you want to be certain of what you are doing then like in every other aspect of life, you need to keep a careful watch out. Judging the value of services on cost alone is never a good idea and when it comes to buying legal services it can have a very hefty sting in the tail. Solicitors don’t just charge more because we are pompous money grabbers. No, we charge more than the fellow online because we know a lot more about what we are doing and we do it far more professionally. As regards the pompous money grabbing thing, you will also be pleasantly surprised to learn that we are far from that. We pride ourselves on being approachable, personable and very professional.

If you need legal advice on a divorce or family law related matter, call us on 020 8401 7352 to arrange an appointment or email us your enquiry at