The court service (HMCTS for short) has been putting together and trialling ‘online’ divorce and this is now available to some to use to go through divorce proceedings as opposed to using the paper version.
There are limitations. You can only use it to dissolve a marriage, not a civil partnership but all in all, this looks like a move in the right direction. You can apply for exemption from fees on line – but that is not always dealt with correctly, in my experience, with a court coming back to say you need to pay the fee when you should be eligible for fee exemption. Only the public can use the system at present There is no data on whether it will be quicker than the paper route. The divorce centre at Bury St Edmunds has huge delays at present and elsewhere around the country does not seem to be much better. The number of people who ‘get it wrong’ in filling in the divorce online as opposed to the divorce petition are greatly reduced.
The solicitors pilot is being tested at the moment. I think it will only be when the solicitors have given it a good run through that we will have an online system that will cover all bases. I say this based on my initial involvement in the online project. If we can get to divorce where fault does not have to be shown (the law has remained the same even with the online system) then I think the online system will work even better.
What troubles me is that the online divorce system will not make it clear to couples that they need to consider financial resolution – or that this will not be clearly understood. Hopefully that can be ironed out in the process for those who choose to use the system themselves.
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