When we divorced it never crossed my mind to use the internet and it was a few years later when I was looking for a specific piece of information I first stumbled across a divorce online forum. Initially I couldn't make much sense of what people said but through reading others experiences and checking the facts I became little more educated and begun to understand how the systems in England & Wales and Scotland worked. I must confess though, chat rooms are not for me and only once did I inadvertently enter one and made a quick exit. Today the women's section of The Times carries an article about the development and success of Wikivorce which draws on Wikipedia, in that it is up to members to add an interesting resources to the site whenever they find one.
Like tens of thousands of men and women facing divorce, Jane was at her wits’ end when she turned to the internet. There she found wikivorce.com, an online support group for couples facing the end of their marriage. The website, which was launched two years ago and boasts a new visitor every minute, is an online community that offers free access to information, support and advice for people going through divorce or separation.
While online chats about divorce and marriage troubles are multiplying on sites such as mumsnet and ivillage, specialist sites such as ondivorce.co.uk and divorce-online.co.uk, which claims 31,000 members, appear to be proof that divorcing couples are increasingly seeking friendship and advice anonymously and online through chat rooms and the blogosphere. But will these burgeoning internet divorce chat rooms mean an end to acrimonious courtroom battles and the need for professional relationship counsellors?.....
I'm not sure why the article is in the women's section, there are many men who use the site too. In fact I believe at one stage there were more male members than female ones. Ian Rispin, founder of Wikivorce, judged that family law needed an extensive makeover and aims to provide support to people who have no choice other than self represent. Wikivorce has recently launched in Scotland and Australia. However, The Times echos my thoughts about the pitfalls;
Nick Longford, the chairman of Resolution, the organisation that represents 5,700 family lawyers, welcomes the online support groups but warns people to think carefully before attempting to save legal fees and going it alone with the help of a website. Legally, divorce can be very complicated, he says, and although lawyers can cost anything from £150 to £400 an hour, you pay for their experience and emotional support in navigating the treacherous divorce waters. If you go to court, costs can double. If the case reaches a final hearing, they can treble.
“I would hate people to think that this is a panacea and make themselves vulnerable,” he says. “As for selfrepresenting, there is an awful lot of law involved. We need a number of methods so that people can make an informed choice, but it’s not easy and it can be a full-time job.”
Of course, he would say that — as he admits — but he points out that while costs can spiral in court, most of Resolution’s clients manage to sort out their differences through lawyers and do not end up in front of a judge.
Christine Northam, a counsellor with Relate — which is in talks about working alongside Wikivorce and endorsing it as a tool for support in divorce — agrees that chat rooms have their place but insists that they are no substitute for professional advice.
“These sites may help by giving you good emotional support — but they may also mean that you stay stuck in a rut and carry on thinking that all men are bastards, and so on,” she says. “Counselling is about facing what has gone wrong and letting go. By knowing yourself a bit more, you should avoid making the same mistakes again — if you haven’t had counselling you can get sucked into repeating those mistakes.”
Northam also warns users to be aware of the risks attached to using divorce sites. No advice comes without an agenda, she says, be it from your mother, a friend or a newfound wiki mate, so users should consider thoughtfully where the advice they are given is coming from before acting on it.
Full article Source The Times 4 June 2009