A client recently asked me about the Government’s new divorce “app”, having read about it in the paper. They were unclear what it was exactly, and what benefits it might offer.
First things first, no point searching for divorce app in your iphone app store, it is not actually an app as such. It is a website called Sorting out Separation, which describes itself as helping you make the right decisions after a break-up. The web app was launched at the end of November, and the DWP press release emphasises the focus on families. It states that “Sorting out Separation is a one-stop-shop for any parent going through a separation. It covers everything from how to avoid a separation to coping with the emotional impact of breaking up, accessing legal or housing support and arranging child maintenance.” You can build your own action plan, or browse the information on offer. There is a wealth of information on the site, from videos to links to useful resources as well as more general information.
There has been much criticism of the project, from what some view as the Government’s decision to promote separation, to the apparent bias of the site towards the more traditional family set-up. Family lawyers have pointed out that the initiative is akin to putting a sticking plaster over the problems that will be caused by the Government’s forthcoming changes to legal aid. As of 1 April, legal aid will be removed in almost all cases, and there will be huge numbers of people unable to obtain legal representation.
Some of the pages that I tried to look at today even produced an error message, so the site is clearly not performing quite as it should. However, I hope that these bugs will be quickly ironed out as Sorting out Separation could be a very useful and informative guide to people facing a break-up. There is a lot of information out there for people considering separation and divorce, but knowing where to look for it at such a stressful time can be difficult. Sorting out Separation brings a lot of this information together in one place.
That said, what the site can offer is, in my view, limited. It may be a useful starting point but it is in no way a substitute for proper legal advice. There is no real consideration of the variety of methods available for resolving matters, such as mediation and collaborative law. It also won’t suit everyone, and it will be interesting to see how the Government chose to develop and progress the web app over the coming months. It is essential that anything providing such important information keeps up to date with changes and developments in the law.
Image by jepoirrier under a Creative Commons Licence