Research into online divorce has found no evidence of regulatory risks arising from the service.
Surveys jointly commissioned by the Legal Services Board and Legal Services Consumer Panel found clients using online services suffered no ‘fundamental’ issues or difficulties.
Indeed, 83% of those using online providers were satisfied with the service, while they were also three times as likely to recommend their online provider compared with users of high street firms.
But the research also found little difference between satisfaction levels for online and face-to-face services, with 79% of divorcees using traditional services happy with the outcome.
Elisabeth Davies (pictured), chair of the consumer panel, said consumers of online services generally reported ‘quicker, cheaper and less stressful’ experiences than those in face-to-face cases.
‘It’s reassuring that consumers are making meaningful choices about when to get expert help and when they can safely handle their legal needs alone,’ she said.
‘For those who can and want to, online services can empower people to take control of their legal affairs and contribute to improving access to justice.’
The research found petitioners tended to self-select online as they thought they had a simple divorce with little need for complicated court procedures or mediation.
These people tended to be much more likely to have been separated for more than two years and significantly more likely to have been separated for more than five years.
Unsurprisingly therefore, 86% of people using online services reported an amicable divorce compared with 56% who used a traditional lawyer.
Online applicants went through the process faster than those seeking face-to-face advice (on average, 83% within eight weeks) and more users of online services than traditional services felt that the process was easier than they anticipated and involved less effort.
LSB chairman Sir Michael Pitt, added: ‘The benefits of online service delivery are obvious. The regulatory risks however are less well understood and this research seeks to investigate whether there is any evidence of these risks translating into problems in practice for consumers.
‘I am pleased to say that this unique research shows no evidence of any such problems occurring.’