Mexican lawyers promote online divorces

Mexico City, April 26 (IANS/EFE) A group of Mexican attorneys wants to convince people that divorces are not difficult to obtain, rolling out a prepaid card that simplifies the process and can even be purchased at supermarkets.

The Libera Divorce Pass promises to help buyers get a new life, allowing them to use the card themselves or give it as a gift.

The prepaid divorce programme is being marketed with the slogan "Tu nuevo inicio" (Your New Start).

"We want to remove the label stuck on divorce as being complicated, bureaucratic and costly, and to make it as easy as going to a supermarket and buying a card," Arturo Ortiz, operations director of the Liberapass.com project launched by Abogados Postulantes en Sociedad, told EFE.

The company Tuesday unveiled what it claims is Mexico's first online divorce service, opening the way for people to initiate the process by either following the directions on the prepaid card or going to the web site.

The card, however, is just a marketing kit designed to get the company's message out to the public, with the 200-peso ($15.70) purchase price being deducted later from the final legal bill for the divorce.

Once the card is purchased or a client decides to start divorce proceedings online, a user account must be established and loaded with 5,000 pesos ($392) plus the VAT, which is the cost of the express divorce service; this is the first step in the four-step journey to freedom.

After activating an account, the user has the right to start divorce proceedings, which require three more steps: submitting the petition and documentation (which is picked up at a client's home); attending a hearing; and waiting for the court decision at home.

The process takes three to four months on average to complete and the company provides a money back guarantee if a divorce is not granted.

"With four easy steps, they can access the service in a comfortable, secure manner, without leaving their home or office, just going to court once," Ortiz said, adding that the biggest advantage of an online divorce was that it removed "the impact and the trauma of meeting with an attorney".

The company is able to offer this service because Mexico City's government approved express divorces in 2008, with the consent of only one of the spouses needed to start the proceedings.

"The fact that in a city...you can help people avoid going to a law office, going through a traumatic meeting and, in some way, (avoid) having situations that affect a person's confidentiality" are the big selling points of quick divorces, Ortiz said.

Although the prepaid cards, which will go on sale in the next few days, are not essential to gain access to the service, they are useful in helping people who want a divorce but have no idea how to start the process, Ortiz said.

"The benefit of the card is that you can buy it and give it to someone who you see is experiencing this type of difficulty and does not know where to turn, because it's transferable," the attorney said.

The cards, which are aimed at "people who are responsible and aware that family and personal situations can change", are good for one year, giving buyers time to think about whether or not they want to go through with a divorce, Ortiz said.

"It is not up to us to judge if it's frivolous or not, that is something that's in the culture already and depends on the value each person gives it," Ortiz said in response to a question about whether marketing a divorce service at a supermarket trivialized a serious matter.

"We believe that it is about respecting a right that people have as a result of current legislation, a way of accessing a service in a very innovative way," Ortiz said.

During just the last three months of 2008, when the law took effect, 20,235 couples took advantage of the express divorce option, the Federal District Superior Court said.

Express divorces rose to 30,206 in 2009, while in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available, the number totalled 31,364.

--IANS/EFE

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