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Government rolls out online divorce after successful pilot

Frazer: Supporting people

The government has rolled out its online divorce service after a successful pilot.

More than 1,000 petitions were issued through the new system during the testing phase – with 91% of people saying they were satisfied with it and barely any forms returned because of mistakes.

The service, which was rolled out on 1 May but only publicised on Sunday, offers prompts and guidance to assist people in completing their application, and uses clear, non-technical language.

The whole process can be completed online, including payment and uploading supporting evidence.

The Ministry of Justice said court staff currently spend 13,000 hours a year dealing with paper divorce forms, but the online service has contributed to a 95% drop in the number of applications being returned because of mistakes, when compared with paper forms.

This means only 0.6% of around 1,100 forms have been rejected since January, compared to an average of 40% for paper forms.

Justice minister Lucy Frazer said: “Allowing divorce applications to be made online will help make sure we are best supporting people going through an often difficult and painful time.”

The ministry cited one user, Elaine Everett, was separated for more than two years before applying for her divorce, which she has now received.

She said: “It was marvellous, pain free and less stressful than the paper form which I tried several years ago to complete but got fed up of it being rejected.”

Speaking at a lecture earlier this month, Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division, said: “The online divorce pilot has been a triumphant success and shows, to my mind conclusively, that this is – must be – the way of the future.”

In March, the justice select committee expressed concern [1] about the government’s “evident preference” for virtual and online justice over traditional, court-based models without the evidence base to justify it.

Chairman Bob Neill MP said, while some types of case leant themselves to online processes – such as the online service for straightforward divorce – “were digital justice to become the norm, we believe that substantial barriers would be faced by non-users of the internet.”