Legal News | 30.04.20
Fortnightly updates from the Family team to stay connected – part 2
Online Divorce Portal
In 2018 HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) took the decision to digitalise the divorce process in a bid to improve the speed and efficiency of these proceedings. Until recently, this online portal has been reserved to those acting without legal representation. We are pleased that HMCTS has now taken the decision to roll out this service to legal professionals The Family team at Wansbroughs are therefore now able to make full use of this service and petition for divorce online when appropriate.
This development provides a number of potential benefits to clients including:
- Efficiency: Initial indications are that a divorce petition submitted online will generally progress at a much faster pace as opposed to a paper-based application due to the streamlined service offered by the online portal. Although much will still depend on the engagement of your spouse, this increased level of efficiency is clearly a positive development for all concerned;
- Marriage certificate: Under a paper-based application, we are required to submit a hard copy of your marriage certificate with the divorce petition, which will be retained by the Court. Helpfully the Court will now accept an electronic copy of your marriage certificate under the online portal;
- Regular updates: Obtaining an update in respect of a divorce petition can be an arduous process, sometimes requiring us to waste a significant amount of time chasing the Court on behalf of clients. We will now however be able to update clients instantly in respect of the progress of their divorce by directly tracking it’s status on the online portal;
- Cost saving: Many of the above measures should help to reduce the time we need to spend on your divorce which in turn may lead to a reduction of your legal costs!
Please note that the law and fundamental procedural steps to obtain a divorce will remain unchanged.
Remote Court Hearings
Remote Court hearings are becoming the default position in response to the current social distancing measures in place due to Covid-19. HMCTS have published guidance recommending the necessary steps to implement remote hearings including the use of audio and video technologies. The Lord Chief Justice has also clarified that attendance at Court will only be considered in exceptional circumstances where a remote hearing is not possible and the hearing is sufficiently urgent to mean that it must take place with those involved attending court in a manner which meets the social distancing requirements.
Remote hearings will require the parties to attend via telephone or video link alongside any legal representatives they have instructed. If you have instructed a legal representative, they will still address the Court on your behalf and there should be an opportunity to review your case with them before and after the hearing.
The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane has recently announced a rapid consultation on the use of remote hearings in the family justice system. The consultation will seek to gather evidence from families with children and all professionals working in the family justice system. The consultation concludes shortly and will inform future guidance on the use of remote hearings.
Our Family team continue to offer our full range of services, including representation within Court proceedings. We have successfully attended many remote Court hearings using both video and audio technologies and will continue to liaise with the Court in respect further changes to this process.
What we will cover in our next newsletter
- Keeping you and your children safe during lockdown; and
- Arrangements for children during lockdown.