Could the new digital divorce process help Court backlogs?

During the COVID-19 pandemic the UK Courts have been faced with a significant amount of divorce applications due to the pressure of family life during lockdown. The new digital divorce process, which is due to come into effect from 13 September, is set to speed up divorce applications whereby individuals can now use an online portal where the Court will acknowledge and process applications far more quickly.

The online process is more straightforward and avoids technical language and legal jargon which in effect simplifies the divorce process, meaning a more stress-free divorce. In addition, far more divorce applications will be accepted first time as the online portal is quick to pick up mistakes.

Family lawyers are getting to grips with the new technology and how to advise clients on the updated processes, but many, including the divorce team at national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP, say the new normal will be good news for couples, their legal advisers and the Courts alike.

Chris Longbottom, partner and family law expert at Clarke Willmott, said: “The new ‘digital divorce’ modernises the divorce process and will help relieve the pressure on UK Courts and the extended wait times for separating couples.

“While it’s great news for clients, caution should also be taken. It is possible that due to the speed of the process more people could be tempted to move quickly and divorce from their spouse without careful consideration and taking steps to explore other avenues.

“As the portal is accessible 24-hours a day, petitioners may do so after a heated row with their spouse whereas the Courts are only accessible during working hours with the traditional paper divorce process.

“Statistics show that there were in excess of 455 online divorce applications between Christmas and New Year’s Day of which 26 applications were submitted on Christmas Eve and 13 on Christmas Day.

“Despite the digital divorce process simplifying the divorce procedure, our advice remains that all spouses wishing to divorce from their spouse should seek independent legal advice as there may be more practical solutions to consider, such as mediation, before seeking to divorce from one another.”

Clarke Willmott is a national law firm with offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton.

For more information visit www.clarkewillmott.com

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