Divorce in a Click
Head of Family Simon Mortimer examines a new pilot scheme which could mean divorce is a just one click away.
Getting rid of your spouse in just one click may seem too good to be true for some people but it just got a step closer with the start of a pilot scheme being tried in the East Midlands where you will soon be able to send your divorce petition to Court online.
At the minute every divorce petition has to be sent in on a paper form with the original marriage certificate or a certified copy. The Court then sends it out to the other party who has to send another form back to the Court and so the paper trail goes on. In a straightforward there are 9 sets of forms sent to and from the Court and more if any problems crop up, so it is no surprise when so much else is done online that the Courts are finally working to get the divorce process online.
Given the Government’s poor track record with IT, thankfully they are trialling this step by step so the first pilot involves completing the petition online but then printing it off to send in a paper copy. Actually submitting the petition online will be the next step but that is just the first of the 9 steps in a simple divorce. Other simple steps like sending a copy of the Acknowledgment form back to the party that starts the case won’t be difficult but one big question is whether the plan is to serve the petition by email or some other electronic form? This would probably need the agreement of the spouse who is being divorced so the Court can be sure they are likely to see the petition to give them a chance to reply to it.
All of this is just procedural however and whilst it may speed things up, there will still need to be some human input to check the divorce is being granted properly. That could be made easier by simplifying the ways in which you get a divorce and scrapping the options of needing to prove adultery or unreasonable behaviour. However in a statement by the Government to the House of Lords recently they confirmed that they had no plans to scrap fault based divorce despite a UGov poll published even more recently showing that almost 70% of people polled thought that fault based divorce should be scrapped.
Meanwhile back in the West Midlands we shall be watching with interest to see how the pilot scheme performs and whether the Government might have more success than usual with the new IT system.
About the author
Simon is a partner and leads the Family Law team at Burnetts.