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Divorce: The impact of the new digital application system

Posted on January 18th 2019

Christmas day is typically the one day a year families unconditionally come together to exchange gifts, share food and spend quality time together.

However, Christmas 2018 was a little bit different for some. This year, 13 people applied online to divorce their partners instead of tucking into their roast turkey.

It would appear that the ease and availability of the new digital divorce application system has potentially encouraged people to jump into their divorce proceedings without first speaking to a solicitor for advice.

New Year divorce rates:

The first full week of the New Year is one of the busiest periods for unhappy couples to initiate divorce proceedings. Yet instead of exploring the traditional route of filling out paper forms and posting them to the local court, unhappy couples now have the option to apply online for a divorce. This year, 77 online applications were made on New Year’s Day alone.

The success of digital divorce:

In May 2018 a fully digital divorce application was launched to the public, in the hope that the stress of applying for a divorce would be eased thanks to the removal of the need for paper forms. Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said that, “More people will have the option of moving from paper-based processes to online systems which will cut waste, speed up services which can be safely expedited, and otherwise better fit with modern day life.”

Since its launch, 23,000 applications for divorce have been made online. The error-rate in applications made online in comparison to the paper form are significantly lower (1% versus 40%). There has also been a 95% drop in the number of applications being returned because of mistakes (in comparison to paper forms).

91% of users stated they were satisfied with the service and praise for it has been undeniable. Elaine Everett states, “It was marvellous, pain free and less stressful than the paper form which I tried several years ago to complete but got fed up of it being rejected.” The system has also been praised by those with disabilities as it removes the need for users to leave their houses. The turnaround is a lot quicker, with legal confirmation of divorces being received within 11.5 weeks as opposed to the six months taken by the paper process.

The importance of seeking legal advice:

However, the ease of the new system may cause people to issue divorce proceedings online without seeking proper legal advice. This carries with it unnecessary risks. The online forms do not offer advice. Unfortunately, this means that applicants could find themselves in a more difficult situation than if they sought the help of a Solicitor.

For example, solicitors can provide invaluable advice regarding whether to name the co-respondent in petitions alleging adultery, or whether to ask the court to order your spouse to pay the £550 court fee. They can also advise around financial settlements and the general consequences of ending a marriage.

How can we help?

Our family solicitors offer expert advice on divorce and other family matters. You can call them today on 01244 312306 for free initial advice, or fill in our contact form.

Call and speak to a lawyer on 01244 312306