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Virtual lawyer scoops six per cent of total divorce applications

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More than 1,800 people have filed for divorce in the last 10 weeks using a new automated legal service available only on the Internet. Although Desktop Lawyer was only launched in July, it provided a whopping six per cent of all the UK's total divorce petitions during the same period. More than three-quarters of those people who sought to divorce their spouses using Desktop Lawyer were men. And more than 40 per cent of those looking for a clean break were in their 30s. According to Epoch Software, the ecommerce company which developed the Desktop Lawyer, the service is very easy to use. Desktop Lawyer drafts legal documents -- including a petition, legal letters, affidavit and decree nisi -- that can be downloaded once certain details have been entered online. Of course, the service is not suitable for everyone and only works if people are applying for an uncontested divorce. At just £59.99, Epoch claims it can provide a saving of around £350 on the cost of the average undefended divorce using solicitors. "Technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that the legal profession can no longer afford to ignore it," said Richard Cohen, legal director of Epoch Software. That may be so, but the service has been criticised for encouraging people to divorce. But Martin Dodd, a spokesman for National Family Mediation (NFM), which deals with the emotional side of divorce, doesn't agree. He believes people will get divorced whatever, and it's up to his organisation to pick up the pieces afterwards. And his view is supported by Desktop Lawyer's own research which shows that two thirds of people don't think this cheap, simplified service will lead to more divorce. According to the latest statistics, 169,000 people filed for divorce in Britain and 153,000 were granted a legally binding end to their marriage. The Register has learned Epoch is also developing an online pre-nuptial agreement to stop thieving spouses trying to marry for money. ®

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