From 13 September 2021, it became mandatory for divorce petitions to be issued via the HMCTS online portal. This digital solution marks a significant step towards creating a paperless platform and enhancing the efficiency of divorce and financial remedy proceedings.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF HMCTS ONLINE PORTAL FOR DIVORCE PROCEEDINGS?
The use of the portal has meant that applications are processed quickly, with some legal representatives reporting approved orders within days. There is also the ability to monitor the progress of submitted applications using case management functions, avoiding the need to attend or call the court. Applications returned by the court can be quickly amended by legal representatives.
Whilst this part of the divorce process is now mandatory, it has already been around for some time. The digital service was introduced back in 2018 as part of the government’s £1bn courts reform programme. The Law Society reported that more than 150,000 divorce applications have been processed through this portal.
Overall, the platform speeds up the issue of divorce petitions and financial remedy applications to allow time to be spent on dealing with children and finances, which are normally the most crucial and time-sensitive elements of a case. These are the matters on which our clients’ time and fees are better spent.
ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS?
Yes. There are a few applications that still cannot be submitted on the portal. These include defended divorces, civil partnership dissolutions and applications pursuant to Schedule 1 Children Act 1989. In addition, if a respondent starts as a litigant in person and later becomes represented, the platform cannot yet recognise a Notice of Change. The hope is that HMCTS continue to develop and evolve the platform to accommodate every possible scenario.
NEW DIVORCE LAW – 6 APRIL 2022
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 was due to come into force in the autumn of 2021. It has now been delayed until 6 April 2022. The delay allows for time to update the Family Procedure Rules and make necessary changes to the online portal. The new legislation, titled No-Fault Divorce, is the biggest change in divorce law for over 50 years. As its name suggests, it will remove the need for the issuing party to establish fault by the other spouse, thereby making the process more amicable and reducing the impact of conflict on any children of the family.
The changes will mean that the divorce process can take 6 months from start to finish: the issuing spouse will need to wait 20 weeks before applying for the ‘conditional order’ (formerly decree nisi), then a further 6 weeks on the pronouncement of the conditional order before applying for the ‘final order’ (formerly decree absolute) to officially dissolve the marriage.
When this comes into effect, the current portal will need to adapt accordingly and there will likely be news of developments in the coming months ahead of the 6 April 2022 launch date.
FAMILY SOLICITORS IN LONDON
Our experienced family law team offer comprehensive legal services relating to all issues faced during separation or divorce. We understand the sensitive and often complex nature of family disputes and adopt a personalised, solution-based approach to resolving these issues. We can offer advice and support on all family matters including:
Divorce and associated financial remedy claims.
Arrangements for children under Children Act 1989.
Cohabitation agreements and claims.
Pre and post-nuptial agreements.
Injunctions and emergency remedies.