On 1 May 2018 the option to apply for a divorce or dissolution online was opened up to the general public.
Once upon a time you could not get divorced without there being a hearing before a Judge. In the 1970’s significant reform was introduced that did away with hearings for the majority of divorces. The ‘Special Procedure’ for an undefended divorce meant the application could be considered as a paper exercise without going to court. I am sure this was a welcome change in procedure as I doubt many would relish the prospect of giving evidence in court. However is the option to process a divorce by smartphone the way forward?
It goes without saying that divorce is a major life event and not one to be taken lightly. Online divorce offers up the image of the post-argument, possibly alcohol-fuelled, knee jerk application for a divorce by just tapping on an app. Some may say filling in a paper form brings about a period of reflection and thought that an online application does not. Online divorce is in its early stages and does not change the actual divorce procedure itself and currently it just covers the preliminary steps. The online form is intended to be easier to complete by giving interactive guidance but that is the point of an online process. However the information that has to be provided mirrors the current paper process so should require the same time and reflection to fill in. Moving to online does not mean there is a ‘one click’ path to a divorce and that should never happen.
Divorcing online – like many aspects of the digital world we now live in – has been inevitable. We are told it will save the taxpayer money. Will those savings be passed on by way of a reduced court fee (the fee for a divorce currently stands at £550)? I suspect not.
Will it be for everyone? No. Some suffer with ‘formophobia’ whether online or on paper and not everyone is connected to the World Wide Web. For the growing number who do wish to deal with the process of ending a marriage or civil partnership without a lawyer, it is likely a welcome alternative.
Outside of that process there remains a role for the family lawyer to play including advising on related financial and children issues. Divorce and separation is about more than a piece of paper evidencing a divorce. An experienced family lawyer can give help and support on the wider implications of separation, both emotionally and practically, that no online form filling process can.
To speak to a family lawyer at Farleys Solicitors please call 0845 287 0939 or email us through our online enquiry form.