Since 13th September 2021, it is no longer possible to issue a paper divorce petition and this must now be done online via the HMCTS online portal. Even Solicitors in England and Wales must issue proceedings online. In addition, financial proceedings must also be applied for online. This has come a long way since it was launched in May 2018 and is an important development.
The online process has proved to be much quicker and easier to use. The service offers solicitors the ability to issue divorce proceedings and financial remedy applications online via a secure portal.
The progression of the case can also be assessed online from start to finish via a secure account and there are numerous case management functions. This has assisted the courts as legal professionals no longer need to telephone them for updates and real-time monitoring of the case can be seen on your own secure portal.
This is a big step forward that has taken a long time to come into force. The online divorce pilot was launched on1st May 2018 for people choosing not to instruct a legal professional and 31st July 2018 for legal professionals.
When parties agree on financial matters and enter into a consent order, the application is also submitted online and is dealt with by a District Judge at local Family Courts. The typical process time for a Consent Order is 2-4 weeks which is far quicker than submitting a paper application which could take many months.
We have come so far with the changes in the way we issue divorce proceedings and consented financial orders; however how much further can we go? At the moment it is not possible to defend divorce proceedings online and this is something that will need to be looked into.
There are other applications in family law that cannot yet be submitted online such as an application for Civil Partnership dissolutions, spousal maintenance and nullity applications. This is likely to be developed online over the next 12 months and at this stage changes will need to be made to the portal. The introduction of no-fault divorce in April 2022 will also lead to a re-development of the existing portal.
There can be pitfalls of not taking advice when issuing divorce proceedings including as to costs and the ability to make financial applications. It is always important to seek advice from a legal professional before and during the proceedings.
If you require any further advice or assistance in relation to the new online divorce application, Financial Remedy Orders or any other matters concerning your separation don't hesitate to contact our Family team by calling them on 01302 341 414 or by filling out our online form!