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BBC Scotland's Ed Meynell
"The company says it takes out the need for a lawyer in the early stages"
 real 28k

Saturday, 15 July, 2000, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
'Click 2 split' service attacked
Divorce graphic
Divorce rates are on the increase
An Edinburgh based company is under fire for offering free-of-charge divorce services over the internet.

Lawdocs.co.uk has been condemned for not providing personal help to couples, and for encouraging them to part by offering gifts of champagne.

The Scottish company offers divorcing couples the chance to download the paperwork for a DIY divorce package with a service called "Click 2 split".

The firm acknowledges divorce can be traumatic, so it will give the first couple to use its service successfully a bottle of champagne and one year's free subscription to a dating agency.

'Talk it through'

The move has been condemned by marriage counselling charity Relate, which says people thinking of divorce would benefit from talking about their problems rather than reaching for a computer.

Computer user
Is this the future of divorce?
Relate's Denise Knowles said: "The internet is good at providing information, not counselling or mediating services.

"If you're going in and talking to your solicitor in person there's more he or she may be able to pick up.

"The solicitor may notice that you're upset from the tone of your voice or body language - this can't be picked up on the net.

"You might think you want a divorce but if you haven't got somebody to talk through all the implications around the divorce you might just go straight ahead."

She added that she believed there was no problem with couples using the internet service if they had first discussed their relationship and were still agreed on a divorce.

'Making law accessible'

Lawdocs.co.uk offers advice for couples in both England and Scotland, where the divorce laws differ.

The company's Sarah Dougall said: "We are just providing a service which already exists. The forms put online are available through different outlets.

"We are not promoting divorce, we are just making it easier for those people who have already decided to get a divorce."

Tory MSP Phil Gallie attacked the idea and accused the firm of trying to cash in on other people's misery.

And Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West, said: "If it's there as a way of reducing paper that moves around, it may be seen as reducing bureaucracy.

"If it's a way of saying marriage doesn't matter, divorce doesn't have an effect for the individuals concerned and their children and decisions over cash and property, people will say are we are taking all this far too lightly."

Sarah Dougall, managing director of lawdocs.co.uk, said: "We are providing free divorce packages because our aim is to make the law more accessible to the public by making DIY law a reality for those who can't afford or don't have time to consult a solicitor."

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See also:

05 May 00 | Middle East
World's first e-mail divorce
25 Jan 00 | UK
Cradle to grave online
26 Jul 99 | e-cyclopedia
Divorce: Splitting up in cyberspace
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