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Couples Can Untie the Knot Online

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The circle of online life is now complete. You can date online; you can marry online; and now you can divorce online.

Californians can legally split from their spouses over the Web site https://www.completecase.com and never have to set foot in a courthouse or lawyer’s office. Legal papers can be completed within anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the complexity of the split, according to Randolph Finney, a Seattle-based family law attorney who founded the site.

For a flat fee of $249, the site walks divorcing couples step-by-step through such issues as community property and calculating child support payments. When the online form is completed, the applicant simply signs the papers and mails them to the courthouse.

But it’s not for everyone. It works only for those couples who are parting amicably and filing for an uncontested divorce. “If you can’t agree on who gets the kids, our site is not for you,” says Finney, a married 35-year-old.

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The site debuted earlier this year, but only to residents of Washington state. Last month, California was added, and soon Florida, New York and Oregon are expected to be added. So far, the site has helped process hundreds of divorces, says Finney.

The site has drawn critics who denounce the online divorce as yet another blow to society’s bedrock institutions. The very ease of the process, some contend, makes family and marriage as disposable as an old appliance. Indeed, a similar site in England was recently condemned by the pope as immoral because it made divorce too easy.

Naturally, Finney disagrees. “I think our Web site has the opposite effect,” he said. “If you’re going to get divorced, let’s do it in a civil manner. I really don’t believe having something available that makes it easier and costs less money is going to encourage divorce.”

The inspiration for the project came from his law practice, where he primarily handles divorces. It took about a year to get the site up and running. “On almost a daily basis, I would get clients who said they needed a divorce but didn’t have the money or the patience with the legal process to pursue it,” he said. “These people are really stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

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For Californians, once the judge signs the documents, they are “legally binding and enforceable,” says Finney, but per state law the divorce doesn’t become finalized for six months.

“It isn’t quite as fast as a Las Vegas divorce,” he says.


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