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Love is not in the air this spring, at least not at a new online divorce site that is blossoming into three more of America’s most populous states.
CompleteCase.com is a Seattle-based page that allows couples looking to break up to simply log on, fill in the blanks and put a quick and relatively simple end to their marriage.
“I think it’s awesome!” exclaimed Stacey Kiss, a 36-year-old hospital manager who was among the first to use the service in Seattle. “I’m a big Internet surfer. I love to play around on there.”
Kiss had spent a couple thousand dollars going through a previous courtroom divorce and didn’t have that kind of money as she was preparing for her second breakup. She says within two hours of logging on she had all the paperwork filled out, and 90 days later was divorced by mail.
“Response has been overwhelmingly good,” said Randy Finney, founder of CompleteCase. “I expected more controversy than we’ve had.”
Launched less than a year ago to service Washington state and California, the site has experienced considerable growth, now operating in Florida and bringing its Splitsville service to New Yorkers today and Texans later this month. Finney hopes to be operating in 10 to 15 states before long.
CompleteCase.com bills itself as “the country’s first automated online divorce procedure website providing streamlined and foolproof access to the family law system at substantially lower costs.”
By “lower costs,” Finney refers to the $249 price for the service, compared to the $3,000 to $4,000 dollars he estimates could be spent on attorneys in a courtroom battle.
According to one of its news releases, the site “produces all of the legal documents, completed down to the last detail, ready to sign and deliver to the courthouse. All of this is completed automatically online and is ready to print directly from the user’s computer as soon as the last question is answered. It is the most private method of resolving these personal issues.”
Couples can use the service to break their marriage contract without ever appearing before a judge in many cases. They simply mail in signed forms. The site is not geared for all spouses looking to call it quits, just those with an amicable or uncontested breakup.
But not everyone is praising the success – let alone the existence – of the divorce website. Some pro-family groups find it rather disturbing.
“It’s bad news,” said Bridget Maher, a marriage and family policy analyst at the Family Research Council. “If anything, the divorce process should be slowed down.”
Maher estimates that 43 percent of marriages entered into today are likely to end in divorce.
Wendy Wright is a senior policy director for Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public-policy women’s organization. She agrees society ought to make it more difficult to split instead of easier.
“You’ll end up seeing people getting divorced who shouldn’t be,” Wright said. “A lot of hoops [to jump through] would weed out those who could make their marriages work.”
While the page makes it technically easier for people to dissolve their bond, Wright blasts it for appealing to those thinking about divorce.
“It will fool them – make them think that it’s easy,” she said. “Divorce is not easy emotionally, and the damage to kids involved is incalculable.”
Online breakups have even caught the eye of Pope John Paul II, who weighed in on a British website similar to Finney’s, calling it immoral. He also recently urged Catholic lawyers to boycott all divorce cases.
Finney defends his site as “good for American families,” saying many couples are going to get divorced anyway, and this is a way to avoid ugly courtroom scenarios he’s seen in his 11 years as a lawyer.
“They spend all their money, ending up broke, tearing each other limb from limb,” he told WorldNetDaily.
Kiss echoed that thought, saying, “If you don’t want to be with someone, those are your reasons. If it’s over, it’s over. Don’t drag it out. It just makes it worse on the kids.”
Though the federal government stopped tracking detailed information in the 1990s, figures from the National Center for Health Statistics show the total number of annual breakups in America has surpassed the million mark every year since 1975.
Even with the overall high rate of divorce, recent world events are believed to have caused a fluctuation. In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many couples in the U.S. and abroad who had considered splitting decided to forego proceedings and give their marriages another try.
“The number of inquiries from prospective clients has dropped sharply,” divorce lawyer Diane Benussi told the Sunday Mercury of Birmingham, England. “Husbands and wives seem to be sticking together, appreciating the security and importance of the family unit.”
Finney says he expected more opposition from the legal community since the debut of CompleteCase last May, but he’s received some positive feedback regarding the reduction of overcrowding in the court system.
He also says he’s been praised by people who previously had gone through nasty courtroom breakups, lauding him for the ease with which their most recent division went.
Kiss is among the satisfied customers.
“In our fast-food world, it’s instant gratification. I love it,” she said. “But I don’t plan on using the service again, because I don’t plan on getting married again.”