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UK Family Law Consumer Research Report 2019

  • ID: 4841441
  • Report
  • September 2019
  • Region: United Kingdom
  • IRN Research
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Divorce Proceedings - A Third take the DIY Route from Start to Finish, 10% Start the Proceedings Themselves then seek Professional Advice

The latest consumer research findings from the author show that almost a third of individuals involved in a divorce or civil partnership dissolution decided to deal with the proceedings themselves from start to finish. Another 10% started proceedings themselves but then used a solicitor or law firm to complete the process.

The largest group still used a solicitor/law firm from start to finish.

The Family Law Consumer Research Report is a new report from the author offering insights into consumer behaviour, perceptions, brand awareness, and opinions. This report is based on responses from 304 consumers that have been involved in a divorce or civil partnership dissolution in the last five years.

Other headlines from the survey include:

  • A clear majority paid for their advice under a fixed fee arrangement but only half of these actually paid the fee at the end that they were quoted at the start. Most faced higher fees than they were originally quoted.
  • Client satisfaction with nearly all aspects of the service offered by solicitors/law firms is relatively good: just under eight out of 10 clients are either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with nearly all the service features and delivery options offered. However, this drops to seven out of 10 clients that are either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the explanation of costs at the start of the proceedings.
  • Recommendations from others are the main way that individuals find legal advice. Two other methods of finding and choosing legal advice are mentioned by more than 20% of respondents. First, there are 24% that go back to a solicitor or law firm that they have used before. Internet search engines are used by 21%. Other digital channels are also becoming more important when consumers are deciding on a legal advisor.
  • Despite the emergence of online tracking of a case, or email and telephone communications, face-to-face contact with a legal advisor is still important for the overwhelming majority of those going through divorce/dissolution proceedings.
  • The Ministry of Justice launched an online divorce portal in 2018 where individuals can complete a divorce online. Almost one in four are aware of this portal. This is an encouraging awareness level given that the portal is relatively new.
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1. Executive Summary    

  • Key insights    
  • Unreasonable behaviour – the main reason for divorce/dissolution
  • Overwhelming majority involved in undefended divorces
  • Almost half are aware of DIY divorce at the start, but the largest group use solicitors
  • Mediation is still not used by many but more would like to use
  • Solicitors still the main choice for advice but DIY divorce also popular    
  • Representation in court is led by solicitors
  • Recommendations from others are the main route to choosing a legal advisor    
  • Overwhelming majority still have face-to-face contact with their advisor    
  • Fixed fees are the fee model for a clear majority    
  • Variations in solicitor fees but fees over £10,000 are rare    
  • Over half receive a higher than expected final bill    
  • Client satisfaction is OK but could be better    
  • DIY works – especially for amicable divorces/dissolutions    
  • Use of online divorce sites is low but relatively high use of government sites    
  • Over a quarter of DIY divorces are completed for free    
  • Most are aware of court costs early in the process    
  • Some misunderstanding about pre-nuptials and mediation    
  • Awareness of the new online divorce portal is encouraging    
  • No-fault divorce – some think it will make things easier    
  • Was it simpler or more complicated than expected? More say the former    
  • Very limited use of support and advice agencies    
  • Market size and forecasts    

2. Introduction & Scope

  • Report coverage    
  • Divorce    
  • Methodology

3. Overview of Divorces and Dissolutions    

  • Over half have been through a break-up in the last two years    
  • In over seven out of ten cases, both parties agree to the divorce

4. Divorce and Civil Partnership Dissolution Proceedings

  • Awareness and use of DIY divorce is relatively high, solicitors in second place
  • Court proceedings - solicitors in control
  • Almost half would have liked some mediation
  • Solicitors still used by largest group, but DIY divorce also important
  • Recommendations from others are the main route to legal advice 

5. Service Delivery and Fees

  • Face-to-face contact is still important for divorcees and their advisors    
  • Room for improvement in satisfaction levels with services
  • The majority are satisfied with the way their proceedings went and the outcome    
  • Fixed fees account for over half of all fee models in divorce cases
  • Over 1 in 5 pay less than £1,000 for their divorce/dissolution
  • Final legal fees for almost half are higher than expected    
  • The majority know early that they will have to pay court fees, and how much 

6. DIY Divorces and Civil Partnership Dissolutions    

  • DIY divorce/dissolution works for some amicable break-ups
  • Apart from government sites, use of most online divorce sites is low
  • Over a quarter of DIY divorces/dissolutions are free, over a third cost £500 or less
  • 1 in 4 find divorce proceedings simpler than expected, but complicated for 30%

7. Understanding of Divorce Law, Feedback on Changes

  • No-fault divorce – less than 1 in 4 think that it would make the process easier
  • Pre-nuptials and mediation still confusing to many divorcing couples

8. Advisory and Support Bodies

  • Use of advice and support groups is limited

9. Market size and forecasts

List of Tables and Figures
Table 1 Demographic breakdown of the survey sample (number and %)
Figure 2 Divorces/civil partnership dissolution – when took place (%)
Figure 3 Divorces and dissolutions – grounds for taking action
Figure 4 Awareness of various processes and use of these (%)
Figure 5 Preference for mediation (%)
Figure 6 How the divorce/dissolution was arranged (%)
Table 7 Methods of finding a solicitor/legal representative (%)
Table 8 Service delivery options
Figure 9 Satisfaction with service from law firm/solicitor (%)
Figure 10 Satisfaction with proceedings and final outcome (%)
Figure 11 Fee models for legal services from law firm/solicitor (%)
Figure 12 Range of final legal fees from a solicitor/law firm
Table 13 Fee bands for final legal fees from a solicitor/law firm (%), 2013-2017
Figure 14 Final costs versus costs expectations (%)
Table 15 Awareness of court costs (%)
Figure 16 Method of paying court fees involved in a divorce/dissolution (%)
Table 17 Reasons for arranging their own divorce
Table 18 DIY divorces/dissolutions – use of an online website
Table 19 DIY divorces – costs (%)
Figure 20 Divorce/dissolution process – simple or complicated (%)
Figure 21 No-fault divorce/dissolution – agreement on ease of divorce (%)
Table 22 Statements on mediation, pre-nuptials, regulation, online portal – true or false (%)
Table 23 Use of support agencies and groups (%)
Figure 24 Estimated size of the family law market, 2012-2018 (£m)
Figure 25 Forecast value of the family law market (£m), 2018-2023

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