All legal professionals are now able to make an application for a divorce online and progress through to decree absolute on behalf of their clients.
Law firms trialling the service
The online divorce system, run by the HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is still being developed, but more than 100 firms using real cases have already trialled it.
International Family Law Group LLP was the first law firm to issue a divorce petition online and has used the online process for divorce, financial consent and financial remedy proceedings from the outset.
Partner Stuart Clark states: "Overall, we have been impressed by the service. The interface meant that immediate feedback was given in the event of any errors on divorce petitions and, once finalised, issuing took place very quickly compared to a paper petition with a local court.
"The whole process initially followed the same pattern of speed and efficiency. However, the court which handled online divorces (East Midlands Divorce Centre) soon became overloaded and whilst initial issuing remained quick, the processing of the subsequent processes (decrees nisi and absolute) became slower due to backlogs. The interface and the digital component of the process remained positive, it was merely an issue with resources at the receiving court centre.
"Part of the positives is the ability to check progress online. With paper applications you would need to call the courts and would often sit in the call-queue. The online process allows for instant updates.
"Similarly, the consent order pilot allowed us to see where our applications were in the process. If an order was rejected for any reason, the online process allowed for instant updates.
"On both fronts, the process was by no means perfect, but a huge step in the right direction and must be the future for applications".
What the new online service does
Law firms will be able to:
- manage their own account on the system
- view all their divorce applications in a single dashboard
- follow the stages of their online applications, removing the need to phone HMCTS for updates
How to sign up
You must have an HMCTS fee account to pay for online applications. Then you can register to use the service.
Once you’ve registered, it takes around three working days for your request to be approved. Then you’ll be able manage your accounts and start your online divorce applications.
If you have a query while applying for a specific divorce application online, please call 0300 303 0642.
Representing a respondent
If you're solicitor for the respondent on a case that has been initiated digitally you will need to email the Divorce Service team at HMCTS. It usually takes one week to register you for this process.
Following the necessary checks, you'll receive an email with instructions on how to set up a password and complete the acknowledgement on behalf of the respondent you represent.
There is currently a pilot for both consented and contested financial remedy applications to be made and progressed online. A national roll-out of the consent pilot will take place shortly.
HMCTS will continue to add new features to the online service, including making an application to bailiffs and for deemed and dispensed with service.