Online Divorce Fraud in California
The online divorce industry is unlicensed and unregulated. It is also full of many different kinds of consumer fraud because it is unlicensed and unregulated. When the California Bar failed to control the brand new online divorce industry in early 1999, the worst kind of online conman moved into the vacuum created by the Bar’s absence. As a result, online divorce fraud in California and all across California and America is rampant and has been for many years.
Many California divorce consumers have been harmed by online divorce fraud in California over the years. NetDivorce has written extensively here and here about online divorce fraud. Our huge comparison table of the top 10 online divorce companies in the California market highlights much of that fraud. (Warning: this is a HUGE comparison table. It will not look good on a smartphone.)
In addition to the wall-to-wall fraud, online divorce websites generally provide California divorce consumers a low standard of work.
California has a difficult divorce procedure. According to a recent Insider Monkey study, California has the second most difficult divorce procedure in the whole country. As there is no entry-level or continuing education requirement for online divorce mills, they are not staffed or supervised by lawyers. They generally employ untrained, inexperienced, high-turnover, low-quality staff.
Online divorce mills download free California divorce forms from the California Judicial Council website and then pretend to know how to complete those complex docs with the data you’ve provided them in their online interviews. It’s a hit-or-miss operation using your legal and economic future. Online divorce mill staff sits in boiler-room operations and copies and pastes your data into state docs. They have little or no knowledge of California law and no knowledge at all of your local Superior Court’s practices or policies. They provide no legal advice. They do no legal rights checkups in your case. They do not discuss strategy with you. You are basically on your own.
Online divorce mills are form preparers only. Almost all of them prepare only state divorce docs, not any local county forms. There will be multiple local county forms in most cases. You will not have those. Online divorce mills actually produce remarkably little work product for their fees.
Almost all online divorce companies are located outside of California. Two are based in India and Dubai. None of them are accountable if things go wrong in your case, which they likely will. Client support is virtually non-existent. No one will call you back if you have a problem. Why should they? They know there’s nothing you can do that can harm them. You can file a Better Business Bureau or Yelp complaint if you’re really angry. The online divorce mill won’t respond. Your complaint won’t harm them. Most of these companies have been getting dozens of complaints a year for many years. As long as they can get away with their various layers of fraud, why should they care about your complaint? They know that if they just keep on adding new and better frauds they will stay ahead of any lost business as a result of consumer complaints.
Online Divorce Fraud Pays Very Well!!
As an example of how well online divorce fraud pays, NetDivorce filed a slam-dunk fraud complaint against a California-based online divorce mill, mydivorcepapers.com, on January 30 2015. It was assigned complaint id #I1501301241468482. Mydivorcepapers.com were, and still are, running their own client testimonial fraud through a company called certifiedcomments.com. Certifiedcomments.com claims to be an independent company that is for hire to online companies to gather and verify their client testimonials.
Client testimonials are valuable to most people. They are a really big deal in online divorce, but their value is based on the testimonials being legitimate testimonials by real clients. Mydivorcepapers.com claimed to have hundreds of legitimate client testimonials, all certified by certifiedcomments.com. However, our FBI complaint proved that the certifiedcomments.com website was hosted on the very same Internet server as mydivorcepapers.com and has only 2 clients – mydivorcepapers.com and its sister company, idivorceforms.com, which was owned by the same Internet pyramid-scheme conman.
You can see for yourself that after all these years certifiedcomments.com still has just those 2 clients. Go to Big Google and run a search on “certifiedcomments.com” – make sure you include the quotation marks beginning and end in that search. You will see that there are only 30-40 pages on the whole Internet that mention certifiedcomments.com and most of them refer to either mydivorcepapers.com or idivorceforms.com. Do this with a legitimate client testimonial company like “trustpilot.com” and you’ll see over 2.5 million pages with tens of thousands of client pages.
We never heard anything back from the FBI. Within about 3 days of our accompanying article being published online, certifiedcomments.com had been moved to a different server (we have screenshots to prove where it had been). Mydivorcepapers.com still uses that testimonial scam to this day and they now claim over 6000 legitimate client testimonials – by certifiedcomments.com.
Imagine how many California divorce consumers over the years have been tricked into hiring mydivorcepapers.com because they thought that mydivorcepapers.com had thousands of legitimate client testimonials. After those divorce consumers were tricked into hiring mydivorcepapers.com, the up-selling starts. $199 for a premium package, which is not mentioned on their pricing page. $125 for an “expedition” fee so that you don’t have to wait 10-12 days to get your divorce docs. Etc., Etc.
We’re not kidding – online divorce fraud pays and it pays big.
We understand that the FBI is busy and has bigger fish to fry than online divorce. Our point is simply that no one will look out for your interests. Your local DA won’t be interested in pursuing a company in India. The FBI isn’t even interested in protecting California’s divorce consumers from fraud occurring right there in California!
Brand New Online Divorce Fraud in California
So we were not completely surprised when, starting around September 2018, we at NetDivorce saw a brand new online divorce fraud. And we admit that we caused this brand new online divorce fraud.
NetDivorce’s fee of $129 has been the industry’s lowest no-BS flat fee since about 2011. It is our complete fee for a complete case. There are no ups or extras ever. You cannot pay us more. Don’t even ask!
Since then, no online divorce mill has ever been able to match our fee. This despite the fact that we tell divorce consumers and our online divorce competitors alike how we get our fee so low. Read that explanation here. Still, no one has been able to match our fee. Our competitors’ problem is that our $129 fee stands out on the search engine results page.
So what does a dishonest online divorce mill in India or California do when they see our $129 fee and they can’t match it? That’s easy. They come up with a new price fraud. See the following table:
30-Day Usage Fraud in Online Divorce
“Total Cost” “Cost for Complete Divorce Preparation Service
|instantonlinedivorce.com||$139 “Complete Divorce Forms”||Yes||$35/month||No||No|
|onlinedivorce.com||$139 “Single Flat Fee”||Yes||$19/month or $148/year||Yes||Yes|
|mydivorcepapers.com||$139 “no hidden costs” “Cost for Complete Divorce Preparation Service”||Yes||$25/month||No||Yes|
|completecase.com||$299||Yes||$19/month||Maybe – Unclear and Confusing, but Sort of Disclosed on Pricing Page||Yes|
So basically what these online divorce mills are doing is charging you a quoted fee for one month of service only. After that first month, they automatically hit your credit card for more monthly fees and they continue to do that until you cancel. Bear in mind that California divorce takes a minimum of 6 months and that often people will purposefully delay their cases beyond 6 months for good reasons.
All but one of these online divorce mills state that the quoted fee is the COMPLETE fee when it is not the complete fee. That is a fraud. Completecase.com only mentions its fee once – on its pricing page. The fact that it may not be a complete fee can be interpreted from a confusing statement lower down on that pricing page. However, any limitations regarding their fee should be clearly stated in the single location where the fee is quoted. Consumers expect to see all facts about the fee stated adjacent to the fee and everywhere the fee is quoted. In a normal reading of completecase.com’s pricing page, a reasonable person would think that their total fee is $299. It is not. That is a fraud.
Watch Our Video on the Brand New Online Divorce Fraud in California
So What Can the California Divorce Consumer Do To Avoid Online Divorce Fraud in California?
Fortunately, there are now other hiring options available to California divorce consumers. These newer options avoid online divorce fraud in California altogether.
First, don’t be scared away from online divorce in California by online divorce fraud in California. It’s the integrity of the individual online divorce company, not the fact that they do business online, which determines whether the company is dishonest. Netdivorce is honest. We believe 3StepDivorce.com is an honest company. There are others.
If you have an uncontested divorce in California, which means that you and your spouse/partner are in agreement on all issues, or at least are not fighting about any issue in your case, then an online divorce is a no-brainer. The cost savings and convenience are overwhelming when compared either to a full traditional lawyer representation ($2500-$5000+) or to a non-online Main-Street type of paralegal ($500-1000). Yes, those are fees for an uncontested divorce.
Once you have determined wisely that online divorce in California is the best way to go, you only have one more decision to make, and that decision is fairly easy.
Do you need to keep the cost of your uncontested divorce in California to the lowest possible level no matter what? If so, hire NetDivorce. Our industry-low COMPLETE fee is $129 with no ups or extras ever. That fee is NOT for a monthly subscription. It is a complete fee for your whole case. It is not a fee that each of you has to pay. We have no up-selling options. It’s a complete fee. It covers full preparation of ALL state and local county docs in your California uncontested divorce, including the all-important Marital Settlement Agreement. Did I mention that our $129 is a COMPLETE FEE?
If you don’t need to keep your cost as low as possible and you are interested in high-quality cost-effective service, but don’t mind paying a little more to have a licensed local California divorce lawyer on your team, then use the Best of Both Worlds option. Hire an Online Divorce Lawyer for a flat fee (usually in the $400-600 range). Go to our Online Divorce Lawyer Locator and punch in your home 5-digit zip code to see what online divorce lawyers are in your town. Remember that each online divorce lawyer is independently owned and operated. So check the offering of each lawyer.
The Online Divorce Lawyer option is an online divorce by a local California lawyer. You use the lawyer only where you need to do so. It’s a cost-effective way to go AND you get a lawyer on your team. And you are protected from price fraud and all of the other various frauds used by unlicensed, out-of-state online divorce mills. Here are the reasons to use the Best of Both Worlds option offered by our sister company, Online Divorce Lawyer:
- No fraud – There are serious penalties imposed by the California Bar Association for ANY unethical behavior by lawyers. All fees must be clearly disclosed upfront. There can be no price fraud or advertising fraud of any kind – pursuant to strict Bar Association ethics rules.
- Online divorce lawyers in California are licensed by the state bar and well-educated in the law.
- California lawyers are required to take continuing legal education courses.
- Local lawyers in California know California law and local Superior Court Rules of Court as well as many policies of individual judges at your local Superior Court. They are also well known at your local Superior Court.
- The younger generation of California lawyers tends to be more competitive than lawyers have been in the past.
- California lawyers are now embracing and using more technology for the purposes of reducing costs and increasing efficiencies.
- California lawyers are now embracing various Virtual Law Office practices that use technology to reduce costs even further than can be done by divorce software alone.
- The California Bar Association has approved unbundled (also called Limited Scope representation) legal services in certain types of consumer law cases, such as uncontested divorce. This means that many online divorce lawyers will offer such unbundled document-review services – many in the $400-600 range – very competitive when compared to the online divorce mills which provide a far riskier and less valuable service.
- Online divorce lawyers provide a case evaluation to protect your economic and legal rights and will discuss case strategy with you before your case is filed.
- Online divorce lawyers use wicked-cool divorce software (the exact same proprietary divorce software used by NetDivorce) and other cloud-based support systems that save you money.
- You will only use the lawyer where you need the lawyer. That generally means that you will complete your own online divorce interview, file your own case at court (it’s easy) and arrange for service of process on your spouse/partner. The Online Divorce Lawyer will review your completed documents, do a legal rights checkup, discuss strategy with you and be available, at a different fee arrangement, should your case blow up or develop a need for additional legal services such as mediation or pension plan division.
Thanks for reading and I hope that this has helped you to understand what to avoid in online divorce and how to make online divorce work for you in your uncontested divorce.