Last month, the Ministry of Justice launched an online service for those who are seeking a divorce or judicial separation. The online divorce service removes the need for paper forms that currently need to be completed and filed at court. The new service is “fully digital” and enables the whole divorce process to be completed online. The service aims to ease stress, cut paper wastage and speed up services.
To some, this may seem like fantastic news. However, the launch of this online service has certainly raised a few eyebrows. Does it truly ease stress and make things easier for both parties, or does it simply gloss over the divorce process, failing to fully account for each individual’s circumstances?
How much is a digital divorce?
The online service is free, however, the court fee of £550.00 is still payable unless you are eligible for a fee exemption.
Paper-based or digital divorce, which is best?
Whether you decide to go down the digital route, or choose to get legal help with a paper-based divorce, it is entirely up to you. Whilst the online service has its advantages, there are factors which can easily be overlooked without the guidance of a legal professional:
- Legal costs – should you claim costs against the other party or not?
- Whether or not to name a co-respondent in an adultery matter – this is currently optional since the divorce can continue without needing to name the co-respondent.
- How will you deal with financial issues, such as the distribution of the assets? Should you finalise the divorce by applying for the decree absolute before settling the finances or not?
- Should you take advice on writing or revising your will?
These are just a few examples of potential issues that could be overlooked and cause further unnecessary disputes if the couple hasn’t sought proper legal advice. By obtaining advice from a family law specialist, you can rest assured that they will make you fully aware of all the options, the advantages and pitfalls of each decision, so you can be well-informed as you navigate the divorce process.
What does the future hold?
The new online service is still in its infancy and no doubt further revisions will be made over the coming years. However, for now, automated online services cannot truly replace proper, real-life legal advice from a family law specialist. Sometimes all you need is a bit of old-fashioned, straight-talking legal advice. As they often say, old is gold!
To read the full press release from the HM Courts & Tribunals Service, Ministry of Justice, and Lucy Frazer QC MP, click here.
We have a team of dedicated family lawyers who are happy to meet you at any of our offices. We can also offer a free half-hour appointment to discuss your case. To book, please contact the Family Team on 0800 138 0458 or send us a message using the contact form below and we will contact you back.