Online divorce - Letter to the Law Society Gazette
10 April 2017
The Law Society Gazette
At the beginning of this month (March), I was invited to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for a workshop explaining more about the online divorce project from the Court Service (HMCTS). I joined representatives from the Law Society, Resolution and the Bar.
We were introduced to the project by a preview of a video about the proposed online reform, part of a £1 billion investment which will supposedly deliver savings of £250m in annual running costs.
The video covering various area of law, mentions that, in the future we may see video hearings. The government is exploring extending court opening hours. More case officers for judges are to be employed. However the video made no mention of how the shortage of judges might be tackled. The video that details how the HMCTS change programme has just been released: www.youtube.com/watchhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_xDMTQ6DJQ#action=share
It seems that family modernisation is leading the way, being one of a small number of similar digital projects involving, for example, probate and tribunals. The Government’s “agile methodology” approach to projects means that new processes are built bit by bit, starting with the petition in this case.
‘Apply for a Divorce’ is ultimately intended to be a simple online service for the 98% of divorces that are uncontested and will “vastly improve the experience”.
No changes are to be made to primary legislation underlying these processes. A new Practice Direction, 36D, appeared on 25 January, enabling the pilot scheme in the East Midlands Divorce Centre. This will be followed by others. The next, for example, will cover online submission