Earlier this month, it was announced that couples who wish to begin divorce proceedings can now do so online, with the introduction of the fully 'digital divorce'. This means that rather than having to wade through a lengthy paper divorce petition, a petitioner in a divorce is able to complete and submit the paperwork online, as well as pay the court fee. This is part of the government’s efforts to simplify and streamline the divorce process, making the procedure more accessible to those wishing to divorce, and in turn, hopefully reducing some of the stress and worry for those already going through a difficult time.
Whilst this is undoubtedly a positive step - as is the general move towards making the divorce procedure more simplified and 'user friendly' - it is important to remember that divorce itself is effectively an administrative exercise and the process of starting divorce proceedings to obtaining decree absolute is generally straightforward. However, the issues associated with divorce, notably sorting out arrangements for the children and the family finances, are separate to that of divorce, and it remains necessary for parties to seek independent legal advice on these matters.
It’s also important to stress that there remain parts of the divorce petition, particularly in relation to the petitioner's financial claims, the implications of which may not be immediately clear to a petitioner completing the form online.
In summary, it is absolutely essential that both parties to a divorce seek independent legal advice to ensure that not only any queries they have in relation to the divorce itself can be answered, but also so that the more complicated issues relating to the family finances and arrangements for the children can be explored. Hopefully then any pitfalls can be avoided.