From 13 September 2021 it will be mandatory for any divorce petition being issued by a solicitor in England and Wales to be issued via the HMCTS online portal. Paper applications will no longer be permitted. The HMCTS online divorce and financial remedy portal has come a long way since its launch in May 2018 and this is yet another important development for the provision of digital solutions in divorce and financial remedy case.
Since the launch of the online divorce and financial remedy portal in May 2018, HMCTS have expanded it to that point that it is now an (almost) complete paperless platform on which all the stages of divorce and financial remedy applications, consented and contested, are conducted. The development of the digital portal is part of the government’s £1billion project to update the court system so as to make it a more user-friendly experience for both citizens and representatives. iFLG was the first firm of solicitors to issue an online divorce petition on 6 August 2018 and the firm has continued to participate in the various pilot schemes rolled out by HMCTS.
HMCTS’ objectives (per their latest guidance in May 2021) are to:
The service offers legal professionals the capability of online issuing of divorce applications and Forms A and online processing of financial remedy consent orders. This is via a secure portal on which legal professionals can manage their own accounts. The progression of applications can be tracked from start to finish online and there are various case management functions. As a result of the ability for real-time monitoring for the progress of applications, there is a reduced need for legal professionals to contact the court by telephone and email for updates.
As was said at the start of this article, from 13 September 2021 it will be mandatory for all legal professionals to submit divorce applications via the portal. Practice Direction 36X piloting the mandatory use of online divorce is forthcoming. There will be a transition period from 14 September to 5 October 2021 where paper applications will still be accepted to the divorce business centres, but HMCTS has strongly encouraged legal professionals to ensure that their firm is now subscribed to the portal. To subscribe, a firm must have a PBA account to register. The registration period is straightforward but may take up to 3 working days. Any questions regarding registration should be sent to MyHMCTSsupport@justice.gov.uk
New divorce law – 6 April 2022
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 had been anticipated to come into force in the autumn of 2021. It has now been delayed until 6 April 2022. The delay is to allow for time to update the Family Procedure Rules and make required changes to the online portal. The new legislation is highly anticipated as it will of course remove the need for the issuing party to establish fault by the other spouse, thereby making the process more amicable and reducing the impact of conflict on any children of the family.