Making a decision to divorce is a very personal choice, it is usually a very difficult decision and often one that is taken at an extremely difficult time. Delays within the court service can cause couples additional stress, anxiety and frustration. If the process can be made smoother and faster via improvements to the court service, this is to be welcomed.
It is now possible to file for your own divorce online via the Gov.UK website: https://www.apply-divorce.service.gov.uk/index
Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service have reported that prior to the online service launching they had teams of people across the country spending over 13,000 hours per year to just check and reject divorce petitions. It is reported that previously 40% of paper divorce petitions were being rejected. The rejection rate for online petitions is now 1%.
How does online divorce work?
- Before petitioning for divorce you need to register and create an account;
- You will then be guided through a series of questions, the majority of which are either multiple choice or answered via a drop-down menu.
- You will be asked to double check the content of your petition before submitting it.
- Upon submitting your petition you will be asked to pay the court fee.
- The petition is issued by the court and sent to the respondent (your husband or wife). It is understood petitions are being issued very quickly.
What do you need for an online divorce?
- Your marriage certificate to upload;
- Factual details of the marriage and relevant dates, i.e. the date you commenced living separately in some cases;
- Your spouse’s address;
- To confirm the ground for jurisdiction, i.e. the reason the court in England and Wales has the power to grant your divorce. There are a number of different grounds for jurisdiction, i.e. if you and your spouse both live in England and consider it is your main home (and satisfy the legal test that you are habitually resident in England and Wales);
- To confirm whether you wish to apply for a financial order for you and/or for your children and whether you wish to apply for your spouse to pay the costs of the divorce suit.
Top Tips and points to consider before seeking an online divorce
- For many couples the online system will present a swift, cost effective and useful mechanism to petition for divorce.
- It is advisable to take legal advice in respect of the information that is required which is not purely factual and in particular in the following circumstances:-
- If you consider your case as an international divorce case, perhaps you and your spouse, or one of you, spends significant periods of time abroad for work or other reasons; you are ex-pats living in England on a temporary basis; you consider you live in more than one country; you have a significant proportion of your assets abroad.
- If you are not sure whether the court has jurisdiction and/or consider that your spouse may challenge the court’s jurisdiction because he or she wishes to divorce in another country other than England and Wales. The petition refers to the principal connections that give the court jurisdiction. In cases where you consider your spouse may wish to divorce in another jurisdiction it is critical to take legal advice immediately. There may be a jurisdiction race or a competing jurisdiction, meaning issuing the divorce petition early can be crucial to securing jurisdiction.
- You are relying on your spouse’s behaviour as the fact to prove the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage; “your wife/ husband has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to life with them any more” and would like advice on the drafting of this section;
- You need assistance with agreeing matrimonial finances. The current online petition asks:
Do you want to apply for a financial order?
Who is the financial order for? With check box answers “you” and “your children”; it is possible to tick one or both boxes.
In almost all cases it will be advisable to tick both boxes where there are children or tick the box to apply for orders for you where there are not children. If you are able to reach an agreement regarding finances a solicitor will be able to draft a financial consent order putting this agreement into the format of a court order. If you are not able to reach an agreement regarding the finances a solicitor or mediator will be able to provide appropriate legal advice concerning a settlement.