A Divorce Online?14th August 2017

The Online divorce pilot has been ‘extremely successful’ Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal’s Service (HMCTS) claims. The Online service to issue divorce petitions for litigants in person (parties who have not instructed a solicitor) is planned to be rolled out widespread although the implementation date is yet to be set. The plan is that it requires little legal knowledge to complete as it is designed with the litigant in person (LiP) in mind rather than the solicitor.

It remains to be seen whether the online service is going to be used widespread by LiP’s. However, there are a number of situations in which a person would be best advised to seek legal advice before attempting to try to issue divorce proceedings themselves.

A person may wish to take initial advice about divorce, whether they should pursue it and the steps they need to take before issuing the petition themselves.

The statement of case in the petition explaining the circumstances the marriage has broken down will need to be drafted in the same way as it currently is. This is something that a person may require assistance with in relation to what to include and what not to include, as it involves the law rather than a tick box exercise or filling in personal information like names and dates etc.

The petitioner will potentially need advice about pursuing the costs of the divorce. It may well be that the LiP automatically claims this and then when the respondent disagrees, the parties may need to attend the pronouncement of decree nisi for the Judge to decide, rather than this being a paper exercise as usual.

Parties may seek legal advice if a mistake is made in a petition resulting in the refusal of the Judge to pronounce the decree nisi or if the respondent fails to return the acknowledgement of service.

Whilst the online divorce system is likely to be a useful tool for many, it does not take away the requirement for sound legal advice and experience of a lawyer, even if the parties ultimately deal with the divorce themselves.