Couples log on to the Internet to log off from their marriages

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The Independent Online
SIX PER cent of all uncontested divorces are now being done on the Internet. The high take-up for the on-line divorce service, 1,800 in 10 weeks, suggests many couples want to be legally separated quickly and cheaply without involving a solicitor.

Last year 147,000 couples in England and Wales were divorced, the equivalent of 12,000 divorces a month, making Britain the divorce capital of Europe. Lord Irvine of Lairg, the Lord Chancellor, has shelved plans to introduce speedier no-fault divorces after the poor results of pilot projects which showed compulsory mediation was not working.

The online service, provided by Desktop Lawyer, allows clients to divorce for pounds 59. A high-street solicitor would charge pounds 400. Richard Cohen, the solicitor behind Desktop Lawyer, said his service was in line with the Lord Chancellor's stated policy on opening up the Internet.

"The Lord Chancellor has said a lot of standard legal work will be done online," he said. "We are helping to develop the blueprint." Mr Cohen said thousands of people "can't afford or can't be bothered with the hassle of a solicitor".

He added: "Undefended divorce is largely a mechanical process of form- filling, divorcing couples don't want to have to pay a solicitor for reinventing the wheel every time they get divorced."

The downloaded divorce pack includes a petition form, affidavit and letter to the district judge. The client uses the service by selecting their chosen grounds for divorce - adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, or separation of two or five years.

Three-quarters of Desktop Lawyer divorce users are men, and almost half are in their thirties. One satisfied online divorcee, identified only as Mrs J, said: "I purchased the documents because I found it impossible to get a quote for anticipated charges from a solicitor.

"I tried six different firms and I found them, a) out to lunch, b) unwilling to give an estimate of charges or time and c) snooty."