Family law has been subject to a digital revolution over the past year, with the courts moving to an online system to process new divorce cases. The change was warmly welcomed, with some clients waiting on the court for almost a year for their divorce to be finalised.
Complete divorce journey
Whilst online divorce was made available to unrepresented parties some time ago, legal professionals were largely left out in the cold until earlier this year. The courts have made significant progress with the development of the online system since then and we are now close to what could be considered a complete model, capable of supporting an end-to-end journey, from petition through to decree absolute.
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But what do these changes mean? Will the dawn of the digital age relieve the overwhelming pressures faced by the courts and improve efficiency?
Whilst generic orders such as decree nisi and decree absolute will be the same, other documents generated by the portal look significantly different. Petitions and acknowledgements of service have been simplified. Paper forms such as applications for decree nisi, statements in support of divorce and applications for decree absolute, will, in time, become redundant due to the use of digital applications. The move away from traditional paper applications will ultimately play a key role in the new system’s success.
Instant online applications
A primary cause of the delays suffered by the centralised divorce units across the country was the inability to process paper applications in a timely fashion. The “instant” nature of digital applications will mean that parties to the divorce are able to e-file documents quickly and the status of the proceedings can be monitored via the portal itself. This should significantly speed up the process from the court issuing the petition through to applying for decree nisi. It remains to be seen how quickly the court will process applications for decree nisi – the first key landmark of any divorce.
Beyond the technology, for now, at least, the law is as it was and therefore great care must be taken when drafting the petition and subsequent application.
If you have issued divorce proceedings online and need advice on what to do next, please feel free to get in touch. Equally, if you are contemplating divorce and want to try to avoid the delays many divorcees are facing, I would be happy to help – contact me at [email protected] or on 01432 349 711.