Divorce in Haste Repent at Leisure

Divorce Online offer the ‘UK’s best selling managed divorce service’ for the slender sum of £182. And, their website tells me, this is not the only ‘UK’s best’ they offer: ‘We use the UK’s fastest divorce court* – We visit the court every working day.’ Scroll to the very small print at the bottom to find the asterisk to find that this assertion is ‘Based on a survey of 15 divorce courts in September 2008.‘ I’m pretty sure that there are more than 15 divorce courts in the UK, so I’m a little puzzled about how such a survey could demonstrate the proposition at hand, but anyway…

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I happen to know from my spies (I gossip in court corridors) that ‘the fastest divorce court’ referred to herein is in fact Swindon County Court, which is not as much as a 2 minute walk from the offices of the providers of the ‘UK’s fastest selling managed divorce service’. Handy that. Unfortunately, it  is not that Swindon County Court’s reputation for speediness precedes it – speed not being characteristically associated with neither HM’s fine Court Service in general nor Swindon County Court in particualr. No, this is because it is whispered in the legal lobbies of Swindon that there has been a 40% increase in divorce petitions issued in Swindon, attributable to the UK’s fastest growing provider of the UK’s fastest divorce who have been issueing the UK’s fastest growing number of petitions in any one court. And it seems to be causing a teensy bit of a logjam in the combined court office (I may understate this a tad – chaos certainly appeared to reign when I was last there, but this is a mere snapshot and no doubt is at least in part due to the more resource and structural difficulties that is endemic in HMCS). But really – Oops. As if the poor HMCS staff have any spare capacity.

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So I’d guess that Swindon is no longer ‘the fastest divorce in the west’. If it ever was. And in fact I wonder if things might get rather worse before they get better since the Family Proceedings Rules provide that any Children Act application issued whilst a petition is pending (or for a period thereafter) must be issued in the court seized of that petition (although this rule is I acknowledge that this particular rule is often ignored). So for all those happy beneficiaries of the fastest divorce who live in Newcastle or Ipswich (or wherever else is miles from Swindon) and who discover some way down the line that the process of separation is not quite as straightforward as handing over 180 smackers and a-wham-bang-thankyou-ma’am it’s all done – whilst the divorce may be a snip and a snap, there may be  some irritating delay caused further down the line when their application to resolve the dispute about the kids has to be issued in Swindon and then delayed for transfer to the court where the child actually lives. If they’re lucky they’ll avoid having to attend any hearings miles away from home (you can’t attend a hearing via the internet). And whilst I wish them well, I reckon Divorce Online may soon be able to add ‘Swindon County Court’s most un-favourite outfit’ to their list of fastest and best.

8 thoughts on “Divorce in Haste Repent at Leisure

  1. Interesting post.

    Divorce-Online account for 75% of all the work handled by the family section at Swindon and we receive an excellent service from the court.

    Granted there have been delays since January this year because of the increase in volume, however anecdotal evidence from around the country would indicate that we are still getting petitions through much quicker than in other areas.

    We are working with the court service behind the scenes and by the end of the year there will be a bespoke solution to allow for bulk processing

    As all our petitions are uncontested and our clients tend to be intelligent and practical there is very little chance of cases having to be transferred for subsequent children applications and in 10 years I can only recall, perhaps 5 or 6 cases where this had to happen.

    I am not entirely sure what the purpose of the post was except to have a pop at the service which has saved the UK consumer millions of pounds over the last ten years.

    We are looking forward to the full implementation of the Legal Services Act which will allow us to expand into more contentious areas and offer our great service to even more clients.

    • Thanks for your reply. Certainly not trying to ‘have a pop’ at anyone (either you or the court staff who work really hard), but really just thinking through the unforseen ways in which new business models impact on the creaking HMCS systems. I’m glad to hear that the court service are working on ways to manage bulk handling, as I’m sure that the growth of online services like yours is only going to continue – and without some kind of special system in place is bound to create local difficulty. In my experience as a court user dealing with listed hearings (rather than dealing directly with the office) there seem to be some difficulties caused by the general work overload (of which at Swindon it sounds like your petitions are a sizeable proportion), compounded in courts like Swindon with the fact that the court office is serving courts in different buildings, and this creates from time to time real administrative difficulty and inefficiency which impacts on court hearings (bench missing papers, urgent listing correspondence not passed on, hearings adjourned that type of thing). I’m surprised to hear the very small proportion of your cases which have required subsequent transfer of children cases, but that’s good.

  2. To be fair to the court, they have kept up with the demand from us until recently and we now have a very proactive court manager who sees the need for changes to be made not just to our court but to the service as a whole.

    The court service realise that services like ours will become more commonplace for bulk work and in the South West we will be having all our cases handled by a specialist back office part of the court service which means we will be able to communicate by e-mail and via the internet with them.

    This will take pressure off the local courts in the very near term and firms that handle volume work like ours will no doubt be asked to use this function in the future.

    When they allowed a divorce to be issued in any court with a divorce ticket, they did not foresee that someone like us would come along and take advantage.

    Because we are so niche, the clients we get are at the most amicable and sensible end of the spectrum and do not really get involved in any disputes with each other, which as you say is a very good thing.

    We leave the interesting work to our high street friends.

  3. I notice that you don’t seem to have any posts regarding Will writing here on the blog. Will writing online is becoming more and more competitive a little like divorcing online.

  4. Following familoo’s comment about canny marketing, i do think that more should be done to make people aware of the impact that divorce can have on a family and how important it is for both parties to ensure that they have a valid Will. Around 60% of the UK population do not yet have a Will, marriage and divorce are huge triggers to make a Will. When you marry you will of course want to ensure that your partner is cared for in your absence, and that your estate is passed to your partner, which, without a Will is not always the case. On the other hand if you are recently divorced you should also consider writing a Will or if you already have one, writing a Will afresh. The two subjects; divorce and Will writing should be written about more, together, to make more people aware.

  5. […] solicitors; appearing on behalf of The Websites is Mark Keenan of Divorce Online (previous posts here and […]

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