Online Family Law Facility to be produced following outcome of Digital Divorce Pilot

Published: 1st June 2018

Following the trial of an online divorce pilot, the Courts Service have stated that they will produce a new digital family law service, providing clients and lawyers with a range of benefits which will make the whole process much simpler. One of the key features is that lawyers will be able to submit petitions for their clients, which is likely to lead to fewer errors that currently occur on a regular basis.

Making Use of Online Petitions

In early May 2018, Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) allowed for the ability to submit divorce petitions online; something which immediately led to a significant drop in the number of errors that are commonly associated with divorce petitions.

Adam Lennon, HMCTS’ divorce service manager, commented: “Now that the application part of the divorce process is online we will, over the coming months make the rest of the process digital – including the response from the other spouse to the application and the final certificate of divorce – making the whole process simpler to understand and navigate. We are also currently working with legal professionals to develop an online application for them to use which will allow them to submit a petition on behalf of a client online.”

At this point, it was claimed that HMCTS were hoping to run tests during summer 2018, with the main aim being to roll out similar systems and processes throughout the family law sector, following all visible success from the divorce sector. It is also known that work is being done to produce a public service for matters relating to vulnerable children and the care that they receive, as well as a private service for parental conflict regarding children.

The President of the Family Division displays his Point of View

During a speech recently given to the Family Law Bar Association by Sir James Munby, the president of the Family Division, it was claimed that the online divorce pilot was a great success, and that it should be implemented and used moving forward. On the subject of online hearings, Sir James Munby pointed out that the process and implementation is still at an early stage, and that they may prove to be the most difficult yet most rewarding aspect of making family law digital. He suggested that they would need to be carefully planned and thought through, with a particular focus on which types of family law cases could make an appropriate use of online hearings.

Sir James Munby continued, “Hearings in such cases will be conducted over what we quaintly continue to call video links – though I earnestly hope using equipment much better than the elderly and lamentably inadequate kit to which in far too many court rooms we are at present condemned. At home we are accustomed to watching television on modern screens where both the picture quality and the sound quality are of the very highest. Why should we tolerate, why should we be expected to tolerate, anything less in the digitised court of the future?”.

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