Adam Lennon, head of family modernisation and improvement at HM Courts & Tribunals Service, told a Westminster Legal Policy Forum that enabling people to apply for a divorce online could eliminate up to 13,000 hours of time spent by court staff checking divorce petitions.
Lennon spent years in the courts service issuing divorce petitions. He returned an estimated 4 out of every 10 petitions to the applicant because of an error. ‘In many cases, applicants and their legal representatives were not able to accurately copy word-for-word the place of marriage from the marriage certificate.”
HMCTS piloted a scheme last year enabling people to apply for a divorce online, print off the form and send it to court. The service has been extended so that people can submit a form, send relevant documents and make payments.
The number of rejected applications fell from 40% of all paper applications received to 7% for digital applications.
HMCTS is also considering adopting a similar approach for the process for caring for vulnerable children.
President of the Family Division Sir James Munby said online divorce had been a ‘triumphant success’ but there were still five ‘burning issues’ requiring statutory reform: no-fault divorce; cohabitants’ property rights; ancillary relief; alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse being able to cross-examine alleged victims; and transparency, to review.
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