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Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill due to receive Commons second reading on 16 July

Bill will simplify process for online divorce

The Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill is due to receive its second reading in the House of Commons on 16 July. The Government Bill, if enacted, will establish a judicially chaired committee tasked with developing new, simplified rules around online services in civil, family and tribunal proceedings.

The Bill was introduced by the Government in the House of Lords on 1 May 2019. It received its Lords Third Reading on 2 July 2019 and was introduced into the House of Commons on 3 July 2019.

The Bill reintroduces proposals that initially formed part of Part 2 of the Prison and Courts Bill in the 2016-17 Parliamentary session. The passage of that Bill was prevented by the dissolution of the last Parliament for an early general election in 2017.

In September 2016, the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) had issued a joint "vision statement": Transforming Our Justice System. It set out the Government's plans for reform of the courts and tribunals system, including proposals to make greater use of technology and electronic or online proceedings. In the context of the family courts, the vision statement made reference to divorce applications. It said:

"For those people who decide to divorce, the process will be simpler. The majority of these cases involve a very straightforward court process. Only around 2 per cent of cases are contested. Yet the rules and forms are long and complex and have changed little since the 1970s. We will simplify the process and put as much as possible of it online."

The House of Commons Library has published a briefing paper concerning the Bill. To access it, click here. For the Bill, as brought from the House of Lords, click here. To follow progress of the Bill, click here.