Two out of five couples divorce via the internet
ONLINE DIY divorces are now chosen by almost half of couples who are splitting up – but they may still have to wait more than a year for the matter to be settled in court.
Just 18 months after the online divorce system was launched, 40 per cent of applications from couples wishing to split are now being made via the internet. However, court delays mean divorces are taking around 60 weeks go through.
Family court data analysed by Wilsons, the law firm, found that 11,129 out of 28,144 couples filed for divorce online in the second quarter of 2019 – 4,108 (10 per cent), were filed in January alone. There is often a sharp increase in the divorce rate after Christmas, often put down due to strains on family life and a desire for a fresh start in the new year.
Jacqueline Fitzgerald, a solicitor at Wilsons, said: “Many divorcing couples are already using online divorce applications but they mustn’t be fooled into thinking that will make the divorce process a quick one.”
She said that the volume of divorce applications had created a bottleneck in the court system, adding: “Without more funding for resources, it is unlikely that this will improve.” Divorce applications went online in May last year under Sir James Munby, formerly the most senior family court judge in England and Wales.
Couples wishing to divorce can begin the process online and continue all the way to decree nisi, but not to decree absolute. However, most solicitors acting on behalf of clients begin the process in paper form.
Legal experts claim that while online transactions appear to be quicker, applications can still fall victim to delays and complaints within the Family Courts.
It means divorcing couples can expect to wait 57.7 weeks until a divorce is finalised – an increase of 19 per cent in five years, from 48.5 weeks in 2014.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Online divorce has sped up the process for more than 45,000 applicants, with the average couple waiting less than 35 weeks for a divorce. Paper cases are being dealt with more quickly since we recruited extra staff and the backlog is now falling.”