Online Divorce Scheme Explained

Author:
Fiona Lyon
Partner, Family Law and Divorce Solicitor
Date:
06/02/2019

Following a successful trial period, the UK government’s online divorce scheme was made available in England and Wales on 1st May 2018 with the promise of introducing a more efficient, straightforward and simple divorce application process. Inevitably, that’s raised questions among some about why you’d still need legal representation if you’re getting a divorce.

So let’s take a look at how online divorce scheme actually works, who can benefit from it, and why many people will still want a Divorce Solicitor to represent them.

For initial advice, get in touch with our Divorce Solicitors.

Call us on 08002605010 or request a callback and we will help you.

Online Divorce: What is it?

Since it was rolled out, the gov.uk website estimates a 95% drop in the number of applications being returned and an overall increase in efficiency amongst Court staff.

The move towards a digital divorce process is part of the UK government’s £1 billion plan to update the Court system, which more often than not, is confusing and time-consuming for most litigants in person.

The online divorce service is available for individuals without legal representation. It allows them to fill out all the required forms online, upload the appropriate documents and pay the relevant Court fee (currently £550). The online divorce process, in essence, remains the same as it does for those who have legal representation - the Court fee and level of judicial scrutiny is no different.

The new online divorce system does not replace the existing paper-based divorce applications, but rather is aimed at making the process more accessible electronically. Overall, statistics show that before the scheme, 40% of unrepresented applicants’ applications for divorce were rejected or returned due to errors related to form-filling or missing documents. The online divorce scheme aims to counter this by offering a much more straightforward and user-friendly system.

People applying for a divorce online can contact the online advice number for any procedural issues experienced whilst applying. However, it’s important to note that the Court will not give any legal advice.

Why Do I Need a Divorce Solicitor?

Whilst the online divorce scheme promises efficiency and simplicity, divorce is rarely a straightforward process and often expert legal advice from a Divorce Solicitor can end up saving you a great deal of time and money.

The online divorce scheme is largely beneficial in non-contentious (not disputed) divorces, where both parties agree on the various particulars regarding their divorce arrangements. Issues often arise where the other party is in disagreement with aspects of the application and fails to co-operate or ignores the divorce papers.

Instances where the divorce respondent fails to return the Acknowledgement of Service form to the Court or decides to defend the divorce are examples that can prolong or complicate the divorce process. In these cases, it is worth seeking legal advice from a Divorce Solicitor as a pre-emptive measure to avoid further complications and increasing costs, as Divorce Solicitors have a depth of experience in dealing with the intricacies of the divorce process.

Family finances and children matters are perhaps the most complicated aspects of a divorce and there is currently no online system available to address either of these issues. It’s always best to reach an agreement with regards to finances and children matters if you are going through the divorce process.

If matrimonial finances are being negotiated, applicants will often delay the Decree Absolute before the finances are dealt with, which may block the process from concluding. Once litigation commences off the back of a divorce, most people will want a Divorce Solicitor to deal with it for them as their future finances are at stake.

For more information see Divorce Financial Orders and Financial Settlements.

Whether you’re thinking of applying for divorce online or instructing a Solicitor, you can benefit from an initial consultation with a Divorce Solicitor to help you decide your best course of action.

For initial advice call our Family Law & Divorce Solicitors

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