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Online divorce data published17th December 2018 Family Law
Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) have released figures suggesting that their online divorce portal is working well. The system, which is currently only available to members of the public who are not represented by a solicitor in their divorce, has been up and running since May this year. HMCTS report that of more than 21,000 divorce applications less than 1 in 200 have been rejected. During the testing phase prior to the full launch, HMCTS reported that the rejection rate was 95% less than it was using the previous paper-based process. A reduction in the rejection rate is positive news for court staff and the wider public. Solicitors note with interest that a pilot is currently underway to enable law firms to start using the online process. We don’t yet know when this is going to be rolled out beyond the firms participating in the pilot but hopefully it will be soon. From my perspective, I want to help clients navigate family breakdown with as little conflict as possible, and anything that makes the legal process of divorce less stressful has to be a good thing.
It’s hard to imagine anything other than Brexit taking up Parliamentary time right now. However, the government does appear to be invested in reforming the substantive divorce law. Their consultation on the subject closed at the beginning of last week and the direction of travel seems to be very firmly towards a no fault, notification based system. This would remove the so-called fault-based bases for divorce adultery, behaviour and desertion and obviate the need for couples to await the passage of two years’ separation if they both seek divorce and five if only one of them wishes to proceed.
There is so much more to divorce than the legal formalities for bringing about the end of the marriage. That said, modernising this aspect of divorce, both in terms of the process and its legal basis feels inevitable and something the government genuinely wants to do. Quite right too.