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Online Divorce Pilot Update

It is “The shape of things to come” says the Lord Chief Justice

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, delivered the Sir Henry Brooke Annual lecture on 7 June 2018.

In a wide ranging lecture, The Age of Reform, Sir Ian paid tribute to Sir Henry and confirmed that Sir Henry's "vision of harnessing technology to the service of the interests of justice, of unblocking the sclerotic arteries of jurisdictional divisions and of deploying judges more flexibly is in the process of being delivered, in part, through what is rather grandiloquently called "the Reform Programme".

Sir Ian also devoted part of his lecture to the online Divorce pilot,

"The pilot has now moved to general availability since 1 May. Over 600 applications were received in the first week and a total of 2,600 as of this Monday. In the paper-based world, an uncontested divorce requires a petitioner to fill out a form and file it with the court. Many people fill them in themselves others pay lawyers to do it for them. They are not difficult but the rejection rate illustrates how lawyers sometimes fail to appreciate that what is our meat and drink proves indigestible for others. 40% of those forms have to be sent back to the applicant. They are rejected because they had not been completed properly. The form checking is done by District Judges or fee paid deputies. It is mind-numbing work which does not call for the skill of a judge or the cost involved in deploying a judge to such work. But a 40% rejection rate also wastes the time of the petitioners and of HMCTS in processing the forms. The paper form takes a petitioner about an hour to complete. The new online process takes roughly 25 minutes; less than half the time. And it is designed (as with so much we all do online) to prevent a person moving on to the next stage unless the earlier stage has been completed fully and correctly. The rejection rate is now only
0.5%. The benefits all round are enormous. The President of the Family Division has been singing its praises at every turn. It is the shape of things to come

Family Lawyer Tony Roe commented that "The online version for solicitors is still to be launched" and that," those acting in person should be aware that the divorce itself does not resolve finances which requires a separate application. Moreover, applying for decree absolute before such resolution could ruin certain pension rights".

For the transcript of the lecture click here