20:45, October 30 72 0 theguardian.com

2017-10-30 20:45:03
Online divorce extended in £1bn justice system shake-up

All married couples will be able to apply for a divorce online as part of a £1bn change to the justice system.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said the scheme, which was being tested at three sites in the UK, would be rolled out across the country to allow all uncontested divorces to be conducted using an online application process.

A “smart form”, which tailors questions based on the circumstances of the marriage breakdown, will help the MoJ’s attempt to save £250m through a reduction in paperwork and processing time.

A spokeswoman for HM Courts and Tribunals Service said: “We have a world-leading legal system and are investing over £1bn to reform and enhance our courts to deliver swifter justice.

“We have launched the first divorce application services online at three sites and will be extending the testing over the coming months. These measures will simplify the process for divorce applicants and help progress applications quickly.”

Under the current system, those seeking a divorce must fill out paper forms and send them to a court for consideration. Applicants must submit a petition which is served to their spouse, who must agree to the divorce by signing the document or state their reasons for contesting. They must also provide documents including marriage certificate, financial agreements and reasons for divorce.

The reasons for the marriage ending have to be set out and agreed before a decree nisi is granted, while a decree absolute can be issued six weeks later, which legally ends the marriage.

Sir James Mumby, the head of the family division of the high court, said earlier this year that changes to the court system would see processes such as divorce become “entirely digitised” in “a visionary programme of ambition unprecedented anywhere in the world”.

Gary Lineker, the footballer-turned-television presenter, disclosed that he divorced Danielle Bux, his wife of six years, last year using an online government form which is understood to have cost him about £400.

The presenter of Match of The Day said the legal system was designed to cost couples a fortune and led to them “hating each other”.

He told Radio Times: “It’s very easy to get married and very difficult to get divorced. And we know lawyers try to manipulate it to make you spend more money and basically end up hating each other. There should be a mathematical equation that goes to the courts and they sort it out.”