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Divorce Online – Repent Later?


Divorce Online – Repent Later?

Divorce Online – Repent Later?

Since April 2018 it has been possible to file your divorce petition online. This is not available to everyone - the Court Service is in the process of rolling it out, and refining it.


One of the concerns expressed about it was that it might encourage people to issue divorce petitions in the heat of the moment and then regret it later. Or perhaps more likely, in the dead of night after a couple of glasses of wine when inhibitions are reduced and the world looks like a gloomier place? The court fee of £550 may cause some to pause and reflect, but I suspect we have all made online purchases in the small hours of the morning, which look good deal less appealing in the cold light of day.


Recently issued statistics, suggest that there may be some truth in this. It is early days and the available sample is relatively small, but it suggests that significantly more divorces issued online go no further, compared with petitions issued using the traditional paper and snail mail process.


The online process also means that it is now possible to issue a divorce petition when the court office is closed, including weekends and bank holidays.

As was widely reported at the time, 11 people issued their divorce petitions on Christmas Day 2018. It isn’t really possible to draw reliable conclusions from such a small sample, but the information suggests that those petitions have progressed at broadly the same rate as other divorce petitions.


On the positive side, the online process should eventually make the process more efficient and as the cost of administering divorce petitions goes down, perhaps we will see a reduction in the court fee? At the moment there is no sign of that – online divorces which go ahead seem to progress at about the same pace as paper petitions. And the hope is that the underlying software will prevent some of the basic mistakes which have resulted in people who received a decree of divorce from the court later being told that the decree was ineffective and they are still married.


It is remarkable to think that until the mid-1970s you had to get your divorce petition prepared by a barrister, and you had to appear before a judge in open court to explain your reasons.

John Pratley is an expert divorce lawyer, who has more than 25 years experience advising clients purely about divorce and related family law issues, such as the financial consequences of separating and divorcing. After establishing the first niche family law practice in Bristol, and going on to senior management roles in a national firm, John set up Apple Tree Family Law in 2018. Apple tree family Law solicitors specialise in advice about divorce and financial issues.

We are based in Bristol and Exeter, but we have clients all over the UK and further afield. We offer, simply, clear and accurate advice about divorce and family law issues, and the very best client service, for a clear and reasonable price.


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