Research outlines crucial role of online community in divorce case support
Research undertaken at Goldsmiths, University of London has found that an online community could provide vital support and advice for people representing themselves in divorce proceedings.
Professor Carrie Paechter, from the Department of Educational Studies, conducted extensive research into its development during 2007, of the divorce wiki and support site Wikivorce (www.wikivorce.com).
The research found that the advice and support provided through the forums on the site helped those representing themselves in court, and those using lawyers, to save time and money.
Professor Paechter’s findings come when the Government is finalising a bill to change the criteria eligibility for legal aid in England and Wales, which could lead to more people representing themselves in divorce proceedings.
The Legal aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (Laspo) reverses the position under the Access to Justice Act 1999, whereby civil legal aid is available for cases of clinical negligence, debt, housing, welfare, employment and family disputes.
Wikivorce is a publicly-accessible social enterprise set up by social entrepreneur Ian Rispin to provide support and information to people going through divorce. Open to both men and women, it has a strongly inclusive ethos which Professor Paechter’s research found was important in providing both emotional support and practical advice.
- Wikivorce is highly supportive of learning about both divorce processes and practices and about how to develop and sustain good parenting during and beyond divorce.
- Advice gained through the site supports both those representing themselves in court and those using lawyers, saving people both time and money.
- The site supports divorce mediation processes by helping people to see their situation from the point of view of the other party.
- The Wikivorce community provides immediate and ongoing emotional support for those going through the crisis of marriage breakup.
Professor Paechter said: “Given the proposed changes to legal aid entitlement, more and more people are going to be forced to represent themselves in court, in divorce and child contact cases. Sites like Wikivorce provide invaluable advice and help to these people - advice that is already sorely needed given the costs of going to court.
In some cases, advice from Wikivorce members helped people to avoid court battles altogether. The research showed that Wikivorce also provides an enormous amount of emotional support to people in the early stages of separation, helping them to come to terms with their new status and to move on with their lives.”
Ian Rispin said: "I am grateful to Professor Paechter for the considerable time and effort that she has put into her insightful report on the Wikivorce divorce support website. It is very encouraging that the report recognises and endorses the positive social impact that our online community has achieved. I hope that, through studying this report, other support organisations can learn from our experiences and are motivated to apply similar solutions to good effect in their own areas."