The Age Of Digital Divorce
Covid-19 shifted most aspects of our lives online. Divorce proceedings were no exception. Although many in-person services have now resumed, digital divorces remain the way forward.
The divorce process became paper-free on the 13th of September 2021. HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) made it compulsory for legal representatives to submit divorce applications online, using MyHMCTS rather than the paper D8 form.
MyHMCTS is a digital service for issuing, paying for and supervising applications in the civil, family courts, and tribunals. The government introduced MyHMCTS in 2018 as part of their £1bn courts reform programme. The service was primarily used by family lawyers and those wanting to deal with the divorce process directly: it has processed over 150,000 divorce applications since 2018.
The transitional period from the 14th of September 2021 to the 4th of October 2021 has ended, and MyHMCTS is now the only way to start a divorce: HMCTS will return any D8s received. Exceptions include divorce applications for civil partnership dissolution, judicial separation, and nullity.
The benefits of online divorce applications:
Easy to use online portal
The petitioner simply has to log onto the portal, open an account and go through the online forms as presented to begin the divorce process. The portal will guide them through each part of the application. Once the petitioner has completed the required documents, email prompts will help them through the following stages.
HMCTS will email the respondent declaring the submission of a petition and request them to create an account. Although the respondent will have to complete the online process alone, this will change in due course to help those in need of additional support.
Online divorce applications aim to reduce any chance of errors, speeding up the progress of applications: fewer than 1% of online applications are being returned by staff, compared with 20% of paper applications for legal representatives to amend.
As a result, the online portal reduces the finalisation of divorces from an average of 60 weeks for paper applications to an average of 20 weeks.
‘No fault divorce’
In April 2022, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act will come into force: the party seeking a divorce will not need to establish fault by their spouse, making the process more civil.
Read our no fault divorce leaflet here.
The limitations of online divorce applications:
‘Yes’ or ‘No’
The online divorce system requires situations to be black and white. It is sometimes impossible to give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer for matters in family law. In these situations, an application cannot progress.
Individuals do not need a solicitor’s help with online divorce applications. However, some stages of the process may be difficult without support. For example, the timing of forms submitted must be precise. It is also essential, “in most cases, to obtain a financial order at least 28 days before the final divorce order to safeguard pension rights and family finances. Furthermore, digital divorces will only terminate a marriage. They will not deal with external factors like child arrangements.