Is divorcing online quicker?
Divorcing online became a reality in May 2018 with the Ministry of Justice launching a new online divorce system for couples. Since then Family Court data suggests that up to 40% of all divorce cases in England and Wales have now started using the online system, with 11,129 applications being made between April and June 2019 alone.
However, the use of the online portal to start divorce proceedings does not necessarily mean that divorcing online will be quicker than the traditional paper application method. Those who begin divorce proceedings online still have to wait over 12 months for the whole process to be completed. This is due to the fact that there are still not enough resources within the justice system to cope with the sheer number of applications being made each year.
The cost of filing online may be slightly cheaper as the parties may not have the costs of a solicitor doing the court papers for them. The fee for filing a divorce petition, however, is the same regardless of whether it is done online or via a paper application. The fee for filing a divorce petition is £550.
There is also a danger that couples who are divorcing online will still fall into dangerous traps if they do not have the benefit of legal advice throughout the process. For example, the person who files the divorce online must also apply to the Court for Decree Nisi (permission to divorce) and Decree Absolute (the actual divorce decree). If the parties only obtain the permission document but do not get the Absolute, they will not be legally divorced.
Regardless of whether parties choose to start divorce proceedings online or via a paper application, obtaining sound legal advice from the outset on the whole process and the steps involved may well save the parties stress, time and money. At Barker Gotelee our family department can offer an initial consultation to anyone experiencing relationship breakdown, including what their rights are and how to start the process of divorce.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.