Digital Divorce by Summer 2017? Highly unlikely
Recently The Times ran a news report claiming digital divorce would be available this year, under plans that could open the way for the abolition of fault-based grounds for ending marriage. The news article stated that the Government is preparing a pilot project to allow divorce proceedings to be issued digitally for the first time, in a move to save time, paperwork and stress for thousands of people. The article also stated that the plan is backed by England’s most senior family judge, Sir James Munby, and will be tested before being introduced across England and Wales in June.
However, all may not be as clear cut as The Times makes it out to be. It is true that the Court Service has begun to look at how it can build and roll out an online system and a small pilot is expected to commence shortly. However, it should be noted that the HM Courts and Tribunal Service has not publicly committed to any date for when a full online system will be available to the general public. At the moment they are still very much in the research stage and working out how any problems with the present procedure can be best tackled. This includes working with a specialist accessibility centre to help ensure the service is compliant and accessible for users who need additional features to allow them to access the service, such as using screen readers.
Whilst there may well be a move to fully digitising the divorce process, it is highly doubtful that a full system will be in place by the summer. This is a project which will take years to complete.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.