Online divorce isn’t a new thing. Covid forced many aspects of life online, but HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) was actually ahead of the game in terms of digital services, having launched a trial online portal back in April 2018.
As with all IT systems, the journey was a bumpy one with many issues along the way that needed ironing out, but from September 2021 use of the online divorce service became mandatory for legal professionals.
What this means is that solicitors make divorce applications online and all of the related documents are uploaded via a specialised portal.
Previously it has been necessary to email paperwork to HMCTS or send hardcopies to the court, so in theory moving things online improves efficiency and speeds up the process.
Similarly, all applications for Child Arrangement Orders, including urgent ones, are now made online using the centralised online system. A Child Arrangement Order is when the court is asked to decide who children should live with and how much time they should spend with the parent they don’t live with.
The court has promised to ensure that the checking, processing and issuing of online applications for Child Arrangement Orders will take place within 24 hours. Once issued, the application is emailed to the local court where the children concerned live.
In addition to this, the courts are gradually moving towards having a single system for the filing of ‘court bundles’, which contain all the documents the court needs for each hearing. At the moment, there is no single system and the rules differ between different courts.
The bundle system, together with online divorce and child arrangements services hopefully helps to alleviate any backlogs in the family court system.
Can I apply for an online divorce myself?
You can apply for an online divorce yourself if the divorce is uncontested. The cost of the application, whether or not you use a solicitor, is £593, unless you qualify for certain state benefits. But beware of websites that offer cheap divorce packages, as you will still have to pay the divorce application fee.
There is a divorce portal open to members of the public, where you can conduct a divorce yourself and while the court fee of £593 is generally still payable, you will not have to pay for the services of a solicitor or online middleman.
A ‘quickie divorce’ might seem like an attractive idea but a note of caution – divorces are rarely straightforward and attempting the process alone can be time-consuming, often taking longer than when a solicitor is instructed, and costly if you make any mistakes.
It is worth noting that the divorce process only ends the marriage contract. It does not address financial matters or child arrangements, and it is these issues that are often the cause of disagreements between couples.
A specialist divorce lawyer not only handles the online divorce process, he or she will negotiate with your ex-partner and their solicitor to make sure you achieve the best possible outcome. They will also advise you on potential future problems and ensure these are averted.