I have noticed recently an increase in the number of so-called experts out there who are trying to sell to the public some sort of artificial package that purports to do the job that a family lawyer would normally do. For instance, there are sites that try to sell a do-it-yourself divorce package for $100 or $200.
All I can say is that the public should be very wary of and should avoid these types of websites and packages.
The first problem is often they are designed and put together by non-lawyers. Under no circumstances should anyone download any sort of precedent or package for anyone who is not a specialist family lawyer and knows what they are talking about. Would you go to a “doctor” who is not a qualified doctor?
However, the thing that concerns me the most about these sites is the fact that they like to criticise lawyers and say things such as “lawyers will charge $2,000, $3,000 or $5,000 to do these tasks” and then go on to say how their artificial intelligence or innovative product is different.
The reality is that many of these so-called artificial intelligent and innovative products are simply not – they are simply questionnaires, precedents and spreadsheets bundled up into some sort of fancy package that simply autofills a form that then spits out a purported document that is said to have some legal effect.
The irony is that most of this information, including precedent documents, guides and information about how to do it yourself, are freely available on a lot of family law websites. Instead of going to these websites and spending $200 – $300 on a package, one will be best advised to simply look at various different specialist family lawyers websites and the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court website and have a look at all of the free information, articles and precedents that are readily available.
Family lawyers are passionate and love what they do – they often give away lots of free information and provide help through their websites that should be taken advantage of by everyone.
I would never change someone a fee to package up a so-called do-it-yourself divorce product – it is simply nonsense. If you want to do your own divorce, then simply go to the Family Court website at http://www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fccweb/forms-and-fees/court-forms/form-topics/Divorce/kit-divorce-service and you will find a fantastic link as to how to download your divorce documentation and how to fill it out. This is an excellent service and resource provided by the Family Court which people can use to do their own divorce and to save money.
We rarely do divorces, but are obviously happy to do a divorce and to represent a client in Court (and for them to pay us) if that is what they want. However, if you want to do your own divorce then do not go to one of these cheap and nasty sites and pay $200 to $300 for a package when you can access things for free on the Family Court and / or on other expert lawyers’ websites.
In my view, it will only be a matter of time before all of the good family lawyers offer even more substantial documentation and assistance for free. It is certainly a goal that I think all of us family lawyers will aspire to – there are some things that can be done up easily and if people want to do it themselves then more information and documentation can be provided to them to help them do it for free and to do it properly.
If you are going to dip into your pocket and pay any sort of money even if it is $200 to $300 then make sure that you never pay anyone unless they are a specialist family lawyer and know what they are talking about.
Brett Hartley – Accredited Family Law Specialist