A new online divorce application process has been launched by the Ministry of Justice in the last few days. With the online divorce form now available to individuals wanting to apply for divorce without a solicitor, our divorce solicitors in London look at some of the ‘pros’ - and the possible ‘cons’ - of the online divorce.
divorce is rated as one of the most stressful experiences someone can go through. Not only do people involved in divorce find themselves in the middle of the breakdown of their relationship, the divorce process can be a minefield. Rather than making the process more complicated, the online divorce form means that people wanting to apply for a divorce can do so in a far more straightforward way. The new online divorce service allows someone wanting to apply for a divorce (the petitioner) to complete the application form online. The petitioner can also upload forms and submit payment of the £550.00 divorce application fee all online.
It’s certainly one of the Government’s aims in introducing the online divorce process - to make divorce less stressful. Justice Minister Lucy Frazer welcomed the introduction of the online divorce system, saying “Allowing divorce applications to be made online will help make sure we are best supporting people going through an often difficult and painful time.”
The paper forms involved in divorce proceedings have long been considered overly complicated and it’s true that they leave open many possibilities for error. Recent guidance from Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, raised the problem of errors in divorce applications leading to invalid divorces. This typically happens when an individual wishing to apply for a divorce without using the services of a divorce solicitor in London or elsewhere, fails to recognise certain time limits or fulfil certain time periods:
- Couples must have been married for 1 year before they can apply for a divorce
- Someone wanting a divorce on grounds of desertion must have been ‘deserted’ for 2 years
- Divorcing on grounds that you have lived apart for 2 years (and both consent to the divorce) or for 5 years
The online divorce service should mean that the entry of information that could otherwise lead to an invalid divorce will be picked up during the online divorce application process. Rather than submitting a form which contains incorrect information, the petitioner, will be prompted to correct the information before the online divorce form will be accepted.
The feedback the Ministry of Justice received during the trial of the online divorce application has been very positive, with 91% of people who used it expressing satisfaction with the process. The level of errors in the online divorce forms submitted during the trial was significantly less – from 40% to 1% under the latest version of the new system.
While the fee for applying for a divorce remains the same whether you use the online divorce service or apply using the traditional paper form, legal fees may be reduced. In a straightforward divorce it may be easy to complete the online form to apply for divorce without a solicitor, reducing legal costs. However, as we explain below, you may still need to obtain legal advice.
The introduction of an online divorce application is part of a modernisation and cost-saving exercise within the Ministry of Justice. At present, the service is available to individuals who would like to apply for a divorce without involving a solicitor. While it allows for a petitioner to complete the divorce form, upload documents and submit payment, it doesn’t yet provide a complete online service. After you have made your application and paid the fee, other forms and paperwork will be dealt with by post.
On the other hand, a letter from Sir James Munby and Susan Acland-Hood, the Chief Executive of HM courts and Tribunals Service, indicates that work will be ongoing to develop the online divorce service so that it can offer an ‘end to end’ divorce
While the online divorce service is designed to reduce the costs and stress involved in divorce, in many cases, you will still need the advice of a solicitor. As London divorce solicitors, often involved in high net worth divorces where there are complex financial arrangements to be unpicked, we can see that there will still be situations where divorce and family lawyers will be involved. If you have children and are struggling to agree on the arrangements for future contact, you may also need to involve a solicitor to make sure you get practical advice and support to help you.
Investing in advice from some of the best divorce lawyers in London means you will have someone helping you through the process, looking out for your best interests at a time when you are vulnerable and might feel pressured into agreeing to something that will not work for you in the long term.
OTS Solicitors is a respected immigration and family law firm in London and is highly recommended by the Legal 500. By making an appointment with one of our family solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today. Please contact us on 0203 959 9123.