An online divorce service developed as part of £1 billion of investment into the UK justice system has the potential to speed up uncontested separations while cutting costs and stress levels – and is likely to find favour with everyone from families and childless couples to the rich and famous.
The digital forms adjust to the circumstances of each couple, saving on the amount of paperwork that needs to be filled in, while collecting all of the information essential to allow the divorce to be finalised.
Three sites in the UK are currently testing the scheme, ahead of plans to roll it out across the country, replacing the current system that involves paper documents that must be seen and approved by the courts before a decree absolute can finally be issued.
A spokeswoman for HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) said: “We have a world-leading legal system and are investing over £1 billion to reform and enhance our courts to deliver swifter justice.
“We have launched the first divorce application services online at three sites and will be extending the testing over the coming months. These measures will simplify the process for divorce applicants and help progress applications quickly.”
It seems likely that there will be widespread support for the new system, especially among couples going through uncontested divorces, which should be much less difficult to complete in the years to come.
High-profile figures have called for an easier approach to divorce in recent years, including the former footballer and current sports presenter Gary Lineker, who told the Radio Times of his objections to the existing procedures for divorce in April 2016, following his separation from Danielle Bux.
The pair were married for six years but Lineker told the publication that while it is easy to get married, it is much more difficult to get divorced, while involving lawyers can run up costs and lead to a much more acrimonious process.
“I think there should be a mathematical equation that goes straight to the courts and they sort it out,” he suggested – which is not entirely dissimilar from the approach that is now being piloted using the online forms.
Marcia Mediation’s own Marcia Lister said: “Simplifying and expediting the process for online divorce applicants will make everything considerably less stressful and more conducive to reaching resolution in a dignified and cost-effective way, whether this involves decisions regarding the children and/or the finances.”
The new approach works well alongside current mediation practices too, which in recent years have helped many couples to separate amicably in spite of English law’s lack of a no-fault divorce option.
Although in most divorce cases one party still has to take the bulk of the blame for the breakdown of the relationship, mediators can help couples to work together to ensure their case is resolved as quickly and calmly as possible.
This keeps costs to a minimum while also reassuring the party legally deemed to be ‘at fault’ that they will not suffer adversely in terms of visitation rights, dividing the family finances and assets, and so on.
While the online divorce system may not lead directly to no-fault divorce for UK couples either, it’s a step in the right direction and a sign that the Ministry of Justice are taking action to ensure uncontested divorces are as amicable as possible for all concerned.