Many Solicitors have been slow, and often reluctant to embrace the digital era, clinging to their old and traditional ways. One of the reasons I was excited to join Beswick’s Legal was because they had taken the bold step of becoming a “paperless office”. I knew that to be an efficient, effective divorce lawyer in the future this was the way forward.
It appears I am not the only one. Sir James Munby, President of the High Court’s Family Division in a speech addressing the Family Law Bar Association has indicated divorce online could be introduced by the court as early as 2017.
He stated, “an entirely paperless and digitalised court must be a vision not of some distant future but of what has to be, and I believe can be achieved over the next 4 years of the courts modernisation programme “stating that “when it has been done, we will, at last, have escaped from a court system … moored in the world of the late Mr Charles Dickens”
In my view, online divorce has a place as part of the overall package of services a family department should offer. At Beswicks we offer online options including an online divorce at a fixed cost of £295 in addition to the court fee (presently £410) as part of the comprehensive, specialised services we offer.
Divorce online can be suitable, particularly in circumstances where parties have a good relationship, are able to communicate well, and there are no children or financial matters to consider. But is a divorce online right for all cases?
Harry Benson, founder of the Marriage Foundation is reported to have said,” Divorce requires time, thought and deliberate intent, not speed efficiency and the throwaway ease of an online form”, “It would be wrong to relegate divorce to little more than a tweet. It should be done as it begins in person”.
I agree, not least after my husband read Sir Munby’s comments and jokingly suggested that this could mean after a difficult weekend in the Walklate household he would need only tap his details into a tablet on Monday morning and get divorce proceedings underway!.
There are many reasons why consulting a specialised family lawyer before starting proceedings is so important; here are just a few:
- Often parties issuing online do not realise that the divorce process on its own does not deal with or finalise financial matters
- A client may need initial urgent advice about interim financial matters to provide for maintenance or protect assets.
- In cases where there are financial matters, clients require comprehensive advice about income, capital, property and pension. If matters are agreed a consent order can be made or in disputed cases consideration as to whether a financial application is necessary to achieve a final order.
- Advice may be required for child arrangements and child maintenance.
- Family lawyers can advise at an early stage about alternative methods to resolve disputes such as mediation or collaborative law.
- Family solicitors will discuss whether there is any chance of reconciliation and provide to access marriage guidance if appropriate.
- A family lawyer will discuss the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage and advice as to which of the five facts should be relied upon to start the divorce to avoid procedural problems later.
- There may be international and jurisdiction elements to a divorce which require urgent consideration.
At Beswicks we offer an initial fixed fee interview at which we can discuss all the important issues including procedure, children finance and potential costs to enable clients to make an informed decision about the next step.