Has anyone used Wikivorce? Has anyone used Brethertons? I have! Review Consent Order

(34 Posts)
Screenwipe Thu 04-Apr-13 12:26:54

I have lifted the sections regarding Wikivorce from my other thread which logs the stages of my divorce. This thread will log how long it takes Bretherton's (the solicitors Wikivorce put you on to) to do the work. All I have asked them to do is a consent order. There are no negotiations, my as-of-today-ex-husband and I,have already agreed everything. So they only need to put our wishes forward.

Screenwipe Thu 04-Apr-13 12:34:07

I decided to go through Wikivorce for my consent order / clean break. I have mentioned who I am using so that you can all go through the experience with me and decide whether they are any good or not!
I had a very long conversation with Carl, everything he said seemed to make sense. I was then directed back to the website where I would pay my £139 fee. (I had been quoted £650 by my solicitors). After this you no longer deal with wikivorce, you deal with their solicitors - Bretherton's.
21st Feb - download consent order questionnaire(emailed to me by Bretherton's)
25th Feb - mailed off completed questionnaire and £45 court fee for consent order.
27th Feb - confirmation from Bretherton's that they had received the above and are opening a file for me.
8th Mar - I emailed them as have heard nothing from them. Reply received saying "We have opened a file and the same is in our drafting pile. The drafts will be with you in due course".
26th Mar - Re Wikivorce. On their website and when they talk to you they say they only use qualified solicitors. Once I had paid for my £139 pack, Wikivorce emailed me to say "from now on contact xxx at Bretherton's". I googled this person - who by the way hasn't contacted me at all and she is a Paralegal - not a fully qualified divorce lawyer. I have also googled the person who keeps emailing me to say they are opening a file for me ... she is also a Paralegal.
27 days have passed since they emailed me to say they were opening a file .... I have not heard anything else from Bretherton's. I emailed to ask how long it will be before I get my draft consent order .... not even a reply.
31 Mar 2013. I have finally received an email from Bretherton's with attachments:
1) A letter confirming that the person responsible for carrying out my instructions is a Paralegal, her supervisor is xxxxx xxxx who, as a Solicitor and Partner and head of the department, has responsibility for her work.
Wikivorce claim this doesn't happen and when I spoke to them at the beginning, they gave me the name of the solicitor who would be dealing with my consent order. They stressed that "unlike other on-line companies, we only use qualified solicitors". mmmmm L I E. Still, lets see how it goes.
2) Their terms and conditions.
3) A D81 form, completed by them for me and the husband to sign. Now there are sections on this form that say things to the effect of "Tick the boxes below if they apply". "Has the mortgage company been informed of your intent to transfer ownership of the property"? So the paralegal has ticked the <no> box. Actually, she should have left both boxes unticked as they don't apply. The property and mortgage is already in my sole name, so there is no transfer of property to contact the mortgage lender about. There are a total of 8 questions where the yes/no boxes should have been left empty but she has answerd <no>. To me, anyone then reading this form would be thinking, oh this hasn't been done yet, oh they haven't applied for that yet and maybe put my paperwork in the "to follow up" tray instead of actioning it. Maybe this is nit picking but when you want something to be completed as soon as possible, the last thing you want is someone ticking the wrong boxes and then 6 months down the line saying "oh, we thought we were waiting for this or that to be done before sending the paperwork on". So I have downloaded another D81, filled it in myself and will be emailing that to them in a mo.
4) On their consent application they have emailed for us to sign, they have got my middle name wrong.

As far as timescale goes, they say that if everything goes to plan they think my consent order should be completed in 5-6 months !

Iplone Thu 04-Apr-13 19:48:24

Maybe it would help to know a little about lawyers, a solicitor learns a little of all parts of law, then some choose to work in a single part, tax, family, criminal, some do some don't, a lawyer is a generic American term that just means you work in law, paralegals legal executives and filex all chose to work in a single aspect of law, this often makes them the better option than a solicitor who does a little of all, any which way though its unusual for a solicitor to complete court forms, it's the job of a paralegal, this is often the same with consent orders, a paralegal will draft and a supervising solicitor will check, it's very common, as long as the service is solicitor managed your fine, it's services that are not provided by lawyers that should be avoided like the plague.

Timing wise consent orders can take a while, this is because you are dealing with a lawyer, then the other partie, and then a judge, if it goes well it can be done in weeks, if your unlucky and the court it's sent too has a long list it can take months.

Xenia Fri 05-Apr-13 07:58:13

If you pay peanuts you get monkeys. You should get anything wrong corrected on the form. Don't let it go through with errors. You may find if you could not afford your own solicitor costs in the usual way though that at least having this very cheap help means you get it less wrong than if you did it yourself.

What the exact quote you saw which says the only people who will complete forms will be fully qualified solicitors?

A typical solicitor might charge £200 - £500 an hour ( I was speaking to someone whose wife spent £200k on legal fees recently on their divorce) so here is a charitable very cheap service.

Loads of lawyers do work in a day and plenty will work all night on a matter and get it 100% right but they tend to cost more. I used Withers and things were done within hours or a few days in most cases.

nocake Fri 05-Apr-13 08:02:23

A warning... a friend (and fellow Mumsnetter) used a Wikivorce solicitor to prepare her consent order. It was drafted incorrectly and she ended up being unable to enforce the child maintenance payments against her ex. It cost her several thousand £ in lost payments and proved to be an expensive way to save money.

Screenwipe Tue 16-Apr-13 14:06:16

Thanks for the info Iplone. My reason for doing this log is because I don't know how long these things take and couldn't find anything useful explaining why things take as long as they do. Having said that though, in my job I deal with solicitors for various matters and it has never taken one 4 weeks to send me their terms and a contract for me to sign. It has also never taken them more than 3 days to answer an email.
Xenia I agree with your comment - you get what you pay for. Having said that, if the solicitors are putting people like me at the bottom of their pile just because we haven't paid the proper going rate then they are silly as bad news travels fast. Also, if I get good service it would encourage me to use these solicitors again for other issues. Plus they could get additional work from me due to the nature of my job... and I guess I am not the only one, so they fail to see the bigger picture.
Nocake. I read somewhere about your friend, probably on here. I am fortunate enough not to be seeking money from my ex, so have nothing to lose but time ...

I phoned wikivorce for advice on a simple paperwork question for my DIY divorce. The person I spoke to not only gave me the wrong advice but was incredibly rude. At least the 'advice' was free hmm

ChangingWoman Sat 27-Apr-13 04:35:27

Yes. My previous posts in this section detail my experience.

Am shortly going to be trying to enforce my order so will find out how well it holds up...

Screenwipe Thu 02-May-13 10:29:38

A month ago now I emailed Brethertons my signed acceptance of their terms and conditions, my statement of information and details of changes needed on the draft consent order application. Not heard from them since ....

Screenwipe Thu 09-May-13 09:36:53

I chased Bretherton's and yesterday received a reply saying that they need the original signed copy of my statement of information and consent order.
I referred her back to my email of 2nd April where I pointed out errors on my consent order and where I asked for a corrected one to be sent to me. I wonder if I hadn't have chased, would she have been in touch? I doubt it.
I didn't point out the fact that when I emailed her the signed statement of information I did actually ask whether they needed the original in the post and that she never replied.
Also she said that once they have received my original signed copies they will post them on to my ex for him to sign. If they had looked they would have found that he has already signed .... WE STILL LIVE TOGETHER, which has also been noted on previous correspondence. I am not kidding, ours is the simplest of consent orders. So far I would not recommend them to anyone in a rush or to anyone needing help and advice with their consent order. They are only suitable for people like me, with time to kill.

LindaJones Tue 14-May-13 09:07:18

Please accept my apologies for the obvious disappointment you experienced with the drafting of your Consent Order. Your feedback is extremely important to us. Please can you get in touch with me, (I cannot identify which of my clients you are) as I would I’d like to undertake a thorough investigation into your case. Following that we can ensure that this service meets the standards that you, future users and we rightly expect.
Linda Jones, Partner, Family, Brethertons 01788 579579

babybarrister Tue 14-May-13 22:13:10

It cost you £139 FFS- I agree with Xenia, pay peanuts, get monkeys ....

Plumbers cost £70ph and have lower overheads

Consent orders may actually be very difficult to get right

Wikivorce Wed 15-May-13 13:31:54

Hi,

My name is Ian - I started Wikivorce 6 years ago after a very difficult divorce - between me and my ex we spent thousands of pounds with solicitors and endured half a dozen court hearings over a period of 2 years.

Wikivorce has one simple aim - and that is to help people going through divorce however we can. We are supported in doing this by funding we have received from the UK government and two social charities.

I am posting to respond to a few of the issues highlighted in this thread.

Screenwipe - Your file is held with Brethertons, I have no access to it and so I cannot answer specific questions about your case. I'm sorry if things are progressing a little more slowly than you would like, but I am sure that if you contact Linda she will help to resolve the issues and delays in your case.

"You pay peanuts - you get monkeys" - this has been mentioned a couple of times. It is true that the £139 we charge for a consent order is a lot less than the £600 to £800 that a typical solicitor might charge. But I don't think our price is too low - its just that local solicitors charge too much because historically they have been able to get away with it.

We can charge much less because:
- our costs are partly met by government and charity funding
- Wikivorce/Brethertons have dedicated systems and staff in place and are geared up to specialise in uncontested divorces whereas a local solicitor may be a "Jack of all trades" and only do 1 divorce a month amongst all their personal injury claims and employment disputes.
- Wikivorce is a social enterprise and is not interested in making huge profits for shareholders

For £139 you get the services of a dedicated and professional family law team within a highly rated law firm - and the aim is to deliver a good quality of service at a fair price.

Nocake - a couple of comments about the "incorrectly" drafted consent order that you mention. Firstly I don't believe that the solicitor in that case was Brethertons. Secondly, the real problem faced by your friend is that Child Maintenance in England and Wales is enforced by the CSA not by the courts. A Consent Order can at best govern Child Maintenance payments for a maximum of 12 months after which enforcement reverts back to the CSA. Some women enter into Consent Orders where they agree to the husband having a lump sum (from the house) in return for what they believe is a "guarantee" of future child maintenance payments at a high fixed monthly level - for example £600 a month. The problem is that after 12 months the husband can stop paying the £600 a month and go to the CSA to be reassessed - often at a much lower rate - say for example £150 a month. It is important to know that Child Maintenance is essentially enforced by the CSA whereas Spousal Maintenance is enforced by the courts. You need to be very careful about whether maintenance in your order is worded as Child Maintenance, Spousal Maintenance or Global Maintenance.

PlentyOfPubeGardens - I apologise if any of our advisers was rude to you or gave you the wrong advice. We are not perfect by any means, and after a long day of speaking for 8 hours to a couple of dozen divorcing people the job can become stressful. I myself answer the phones and I must admit to being short with people on occassions. But I know each of our advisors personally and they are all highly dedicated, experienced and knowledgeable. We are not solicitors and so cannot offer legal advice on the phone - but our advisers have all been in a divorce advice role for at least 12 months full-time - and have a range of experience and qualifications from family mediators to legal executives to mackenzie friends.

I guess my overall message to anyone reading this thread is not to write Wikivorce off because of a few negative experiences/comments.

Wikivorce helps 50,000 people a year through divorce. Divorce is a very stressful experience and its very rare that both parties to a divorce are happy with the outcome.

Many people on low incomes have nowhere else to turn to for support since the government's recent cuts to Legal Aid.

A great many people are have been helped by Wikivorce - you can read some of their customer feedback here.

justicefirst Fri 24-May-13 17:57:32

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Screenwipe Wed 05-Jun-13 14:51:07

9th May 2013 - received amended consent order with apologies for errors... and "Upon your approval of the documentation I will then write to your husband for his signature of all the documentation." <rolls eyes, shrugs and sighs>... So anyway, my ex and I both signed the consent order and I mailed it off.
21 May 2013 - Not heard anything so emailed asking if the consent order had been mailed to the judge.
30 May 2013 - reply received with a Form A attached for me to complete, with a note saying that one had been put in the post for my ex to complete. Form A is a "Notice of intention to proceed with an application for a financial order". I was quite concerned when I read it as the boxes were ticked saying that I was applying to the court for an order for maintenance, a lump sum order, a property adjustment order and a bunch of other things. So I actually phoned Bretherton's and was told that this form has to be filled in to dismiss future claims. I was told that on this form, I was the applicant and my ex is the respondent, whereas on the one that they have mailed him, he is the applicant and I am the respondent. So I filled in the bits and signed it.
31 May 2013 - the ex's form arrived. I am showing as the applicant on this one too but hey-ho. The letter that came with it says the consent order has the effect of dismissing your future claims and therefore you need to make the application before they can be dismissed. So, he completed and signed it, then I mailed them to Brethertons.
4 Jun 2013 - I actually received an email from Brethertons confirming receipt of the Form A and the fact that it has been sent on to the court, that this next process could take up to 8 weeks, so not to expect to hear from them for 8 weeks.
So, next update will be in 8 weeks unless something interesting happens between now and then.

Screenwipe Wed 05-Jun-13 15:12:03

Hello Linda. I would rather not contact you until everything has been tied up. Not for any other reason than I decided to write this log as an honest account of what happens if you decide to use Wikivorce and how long things take. I undertand that some things are out of Bretherton's hands, for example you can't help it if it takes the courts 10 weeks to do something.

Babybarrister. The reason I decided to start this thread was to log my experience of using Wikivorce so that if anyone else wants to use them they can make an informed decision. If I had decided to use my local solicitors and pay £600 I would have still started this thread but it would have been about them. Not everyone can afford the high cost option and as my ex and I are best mates I was prepared to gamble and use them.

Ian. I know that things take time but it shouldn't take 4 weeks for terms of business to be sent out. Also the letter I received said I would be kept up to date with things - I haven't. I have had to chase for updates and although they might know what they are doing and how long things take, I don't. Again this is the point of this thread. At least if someone else is in the same situation as me they will have a rough idea of how long it takes to reach each stage.

NotGettingAny Fri 14-Jun-13 07:47:27

Hi screenwipe

I am the poster nocake refers to <waves>

Here is the thread

Couple of points
Wikivorce were great in providing me with enough information to do my own divorce. I paid court fees and nothing more for the actual divorce. I thank the wiki site for this - really great work

Consent order - Ian is right on a couple of points: it was a different firm, wikivorce provide a fabulous service to low income people needing help.

He's incorrect in his comments about the child maintenance in my situation. I was referring to the child maintenance that is covered in the consent order and is enforceable for the first 12 months. I know that after this, only CSA can enforce. The point was that my CO was written in a way which made it in unenforceable at all! CSA would not get involved because I had a CO and they will only get involved after the 12 mths is up. So I was left in a no mans land with useless CO and not able to use the CSA. Eventually the CSA recognised that my CO had been badly written and agreed to help but by then I had lost months and months of money at a time when I needed it.

Anyway legal ombudsman got involved. My CO fee to the legal firm was refunded and I was given 6 times that amount to correct some other basic mistakes in the CO. I didn't need the stress and regretted using them

In regards to the 'pay peanuts get monkeys' remarks. Our CO was very straightforward and had it been written without these really basic mistakes, it would have met our needs. Tbh my order (with corrections) could be used as a template for anyone with a simple settlement ...why the sols couldn't do the same is beyond me! My biggest mistake was assuming that using a sol meant I didn't have to double check their work.

I wrote my own divorce petition and completed all of that with advice from Wiki. Recently I have needed some legal work and new sol has looked over my divorce paperwork to make sure it is correct. She said she'll offer me a job (tongue in cheek) because its watertight and perfect for meeting my intentions.

NotGettingAny Fri 14-Jun-13 07:54:47

The experience has taught me to trust myself and not assume paying someone else with more experience guarantees anything.

I then went onto paying a lot of money (£200 hourly rate?) to a sol who also cocked up. Nocake helped me dispute that bill and they accepted fault.... (No peanuts involved that time but still got a monkey)

New sol.... She was bloody fabulous. Really helpful and I will use her time and time again.

So I guess you get duds in all walks of life

Wiki was free and brilliant
Online sol was cheap but useless
Local sols charged a fortune but were useless
Local sol also charged a fortune but were ace

Anyway enough of me grin

Screenwipe Tue 25-Jun-13 08:36:40

On the 20th June I received an email from Brethertons with an attachment. My consent order has been sealed and returned to them. I did reply to her just to double check - the letter from the court which says "here is the sealed consent order" isn't signed, then the consent order which has a total of 4 pages, states the judges name and has the court rubber stamp on the first two pages, not the last two and hasn't been signed. I have asked if this is correct. I haven't had an answer yet but hopefully I will in the next couple of weeks.

So regarding timescales ...

If it hadn't have taken Brethertons 4 and a half weeks just to send me their terms and an incorrect application for consent order and then another 5 and a half weeks to send me a corrected application for consent order .... my consent order would have been sealed at the end of April!

If I had do go through exactly the same situation again, would I use Wikivorce and Brethertons again??

Yes.

I do not feel for something so simple our local solicitors can justify the price they charge.

I do however agree with <notgettingany>. Just because you are paying someone, it doesn't mean they are going to get it right. You have to check their work and chase them. This would apply to any solicitor and not just Brethertons.

mumblechum1 Tue 25-Jun-13 08:42:58

Screenwipe, letters from the court aren't signed, normally. The consent order is validated when it's sealed on the front page and the judge's name and date are endorsed.

Can't comment about anything else, but it sounds as though there's nothing wrong with your order.

Screenwipe Fri 28-Jun-13 14:36:08

Reply received as follows:

The matter is now resolved and there is no further documentation to receive from the Court.

To confirm, the Consent Order is ‘sealed’ and therefore becomes effective. It is not a necessity that the district judge signs the Consent Order anywhere. The main concern is that the Court has sealed the document by way of their ‘stamp’ on the Consent Application and also on the Consent Order.

That's it then. All done and dusted!

QueenQueenie Fri 28-Jun-13 21:47:34

op the "original" sealed order, endorsed by the District Judge will be on the court file.

aloha2013 Sun 21-Jul-13 13:27:54

I would like to add something to this in regards to the order I purchased via Wikivorce. The problems I had unfortunately were completely to do with Brethertons Solicitors. They were awful from day one. I did my divorce myself, but felt I needed some sort of professional service to do my consent order due to the property involved.

It took Brethertons 4 months just to even draft my order. This was despite it being simple (just one property involved, no pensions/savings, no children). During this period I emailed many times, received no response. Every time I rang I couldnt get through to them, there was no one answering the phone on the number I had. In the end I complained to Wikivorce who gave them a kick up the backside. When I did manage to get through, their excuses ranged from they had staff off sick, or that they had a huge workload and too much to do and my order was sitting in a pile waiting to be actioned along with loads of others. Hardly makes you feel valued!!!

I FINALLY received the draft order only to find it was full of spelling mistakes - addresses, even names were incorrect. Sent it back with amendments. Again was sent the draft with the SAME mistakes. SO had to send it back again. Each time it took them an extra 3 weeks to actually make the amendments.

After all this was done I eventually received an email saying it had been sent to my ex. A month later, he is yet to receive the paperwork. I am not convinced it has been lost in the post. My feeling is that either Brethertons have sent it to the wrong address (especially considering the problems mentioned above) or that they havent actually sent it in the first place and it is still sitting on someones desk, having being forgotten about.

I am purely sick of this all now and just wished I'd gone elsewhere. Brethertons clearly need to sort themselves out, they have clearly take on too much work and dont have the resources to complete it all.

I have no idea when my consent order is likely to be completed. I can only hope it is completed by the end of the year.

KenNorman Tue 23-Jul-13 16:02:16

aloha2013 thank you for your feedback – I’m really sorry to hear about the mistakes made and the continuing delays that you are experiencing. Please can you get in touch with me, (we have over a thousand files open and I am unable to identify which of our clients you are) as I would I’d like to look into your case. Thank you.
Ken Norman, Key Client Manager, Brethertons LLP, 01295 661535 kennorman@brethertons.co.uk

ProphetOfDoom Tue 23-Jul-13 16:31:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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