In 2018 HMCTS launched its online divorce service, seemingly streamlining the process required for couples to begin a divorce petition.

It has been reported that just 18 months later, 40% of divorce petitions are being started online. This is alongside the recent news that the Bradford court divorce centre is set to close; and solicitors being now also able to apply online for a divorce on behalf of their clients.

Andrew Smith, a Partner at Lupton Fawcett solicitors and expert in matrimonial and family law, considers the online divorce process:

Is it easy to do?

It is more user friendly and doesn’t contain as much legal jargon. The questions are simplified so that the general public can answer with more confidence.

Is it quicker?

No. The timescale for a divorce is more or less the same. The family court was already experiencing long delays and the online service makes no difference.

The online petition must still be checked over and so the ‘human’ element has not been completely removed. At present it has been reported that couples are having to wait up to 60 weeks to get divorced.

Do I have to have a solicitor to apply for a Divorce?

No but you should be wary of mistakes which can be made when applying for a divorce; particularly when you come to choose a ‘fact’ on which to base the breakdown of your marriage.

For example, if you choose adultery as the fact of the breakdown make sure you have conclusive proof of that adultery or the confession of your spouse.

If you choose ‘Unreasonable Behaviour’ make sure the allegations of bad behaviour are strong enough. Beware the 2018 Supreme Court case of Owens v Owens in which the Petitioner Mrs Owens was refused the right to divorce her husband.

A solicitor will be able to advise you if you are choosing the correct fact and the potential pitfalls.

Do I have to do anything after I receive my Decree Absolute?

The Decree Absolute is the final pronouncement of divorce. However, if you have financial assets together such as a house you will still need to deal with those. It is not advisable to divorce before you have dealt with all of your finances whether jointly or solely owned.

Beware the 2015 Supreme Court case of Vince v Wyatt in which a multi-millionaire husband faced a financial claim from his former wife 22 years after their divorce.

Conclusion

At Lupton Fawcett solicitors we have acted for a number of clients who have started the online divorce process in good faith, only to face difficulties later on which need to be rectified. It can sometimes be a false economy to apply for a divorce completely on your own.

We would urge everybody applying for a divorce to instruct a solicitor from the outset, at the very least to advise in the ‘background’ when the application is made.

If you would like further information or advice, please contact Andrew Smith or Lilly Grant in our York office, Chris Burns or Sophie Arrowsmith in our Leeds office or Richard Buckley in our Sheffield office.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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