Since Monday 13 September 2021, getting divorced moved a step closer to becoming a paper-free process when the HM Courts & Tribunals Service’s digital portal became mandatory for new applications.
HMCTS will continue to process paper applications from Tuesday 14 September until Monday 4 October.
Digital divorce offers the option of completing a divorce online, through digital filing instead of paper forms and face-to-face.
More Efficient Divorce Process
Whilst it has now been made mandatory, it is not actually new. In figures reported by the Law Society Gazette, more than 150,000 divorce applications have been processed since the digital service was introduced in 2018 as part of the government’s £1bn courts reform programme.
HMCTS said the digital process helped the agency to finalise divorces in an average of 20 weeks compared with around 60 weeks for paper applications. Staff are returning fewer than 1% of online applications, compared with around 20% of paper applications, for legal representatives to amend.
The exceptions to using the digital online service are below. In these instances, divorce applications should continue to be processed via the paper route:
- civil partnership
- judicial separation
Importance of Legal Advice
2021 has seen one of the steepest ever increases in couples looking to get divorced, with divorce enquiries to lawyers increasing heavily over this year. Research conducted for Divorce Day 2021 (January 4th) highlighted increases of over 200% for the likes of “filing for divorce”, “quickie divorce” and “divorce lawyer near me”. This data, measuring interest on Google, compares the second week of December 2019 to the 6th-12th December 2020.
It is expected that divorce enquiries will continue as the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stresses of the various lockdowns are felt. Whilst the faster and more efficient service aims to allow couples to reach an agreement more amicably and subsequently reduce legal costs, there are dangers in couples trying to completely go at it alone and manage their own divorce without the legal advice or expertise of a family law solicitor.
Obtaining a Decree Absolute is only one part of the divorce process, and even when the break-up is reasonably amicable, or there are no children involved or sizable assets to consider, couples may not be fully aware of their legal rights, or the various options open to them. It is vital to understand that arrangements for children or decisions about how finances or assets should be divided are not included as part of the administrative divorce process and will need to be dealt with separately.
Important decisions about arrangements for children or finances must be considered carefully and fairly and recorded in a court order or deed of separation. Without formalising a financial settlement or the agreement regarding any children before the decree absolute is finalised, disputes in the future with ex-partners can be challenging to manage. Many couples assume that getting the decree absolute means that the ex can no longer pursue any financial claims against them in the future, but this is not the case.
Therefore, it is always advisable to seek professional advice from an experienced family lawyer about how the law applies to your individual circumstances, even if you choose to manage the online submission yourself to reduce legal costs and speed up the process.
Expert Family Law Solicitors
Every family is different, and our dedicated family law team understand that couples can choose to end their marriages for a variety of different reasons.
Jarmans Solicitors believes in offering all our clients clear and professional legal advice, specifically tailored to their personal needs. Our experienced team will sensitively and supportively guide you through the divorce process, ensuring that your emotional needs are always respected.
We offer legal advice for all your Divorce needs. If you would like to contact us or book a consultation with a member of our team, please fill in the ‘Make an Enquiry’ form or call us on 01795 472291 or email email@example.com