Online divorce pilot ‘extremely successful’

Divorce|April 21st 2017

The government’s first attempt to introduce an online divorce system has been “extremely successful” according to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

Plans for the service were announced by President of the Family Division Sir James Munby in 2016 and a pilot scheme was launched earlier this year at the East Midlands Divorce Centre in Nottingham.

HMCTS claims that feedback from this trial run has been very positive. This week, Divorce Service Manager Adam Lennon wrote that it has helped to “build confidence in the design of the system before we … extend the pilot to a wider audience”.

Lennon said one of the main issues people seeking for a divorce without legal representation face is the D8 ‘Apply for a Divorce’ form. He claimed that as many as 40 per cent of applications were “rejected due to forms being completed incorrectly”. In order to combat this problem, the online system “looks very different to the D8 form” as it “tailors questions based on the individual’s circumstances and adapts the questions it asks based on their answers provided”.

This new approach had been “extremely successful” with users, he insisted. One man who filed his divorce petition this way said it was “nice to see a system that works and was easy to follow”. Meanwhile a female user described it as “marvellous, pain free and less stressful than the paper form”.

In order to assess the potential of online divorce, Lennon gathered opinions about it from various legal practitioners. One of them told him that the service “cannot come soon enough” as it would “undoubtedly improve access to justice [and] an additional platform for those most vulnerable to break away from an abusive marriage”.

Despite this positive reaction, the government has a chequered history with online divorce systems. Early last year, the Ministry of Justice had to issue an apology because an error on the online Form E financial disclosure document was not spotted for several months. Thousands of couples could have ended up with an unfair divorce settlement as a result of the mistake.

Read Adam Lennon’s full report here.

Photo by Rachel Johnson via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

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  1. spinner says:

    Great news, once all forms and their corresponding outcomes are submitted online this will give an increasing data set to train legal AI’s.
    The adaptive questioning is really interesting as essentially that is one of the functions of a solicitor when they fill out these forms with you.
    The block to providing access to the legal system is the cost of lawyers, every step that is taken to remove lawyers from the legal system will reduce cost and improve access for all.

  2. Andrew says:

    Were there any reported cases arising out of the Form E Fiasco? I thought the chips should lie where they fell but others differed!

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