Online divorce service goes to pilot

East Midlands court provides testing ground for new service from HMCTS

A prototype model of the online divorce service has been piloted with successful results, according to HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

Train tracks splittingThe service, plans for which were announced last year by Sir James Mumby, head of the Family Division of the High Court, has been tested since January in a small scale pilot in the East Midlands Divorce Centre in Nottingham.

blogpost by Adam Lennon, divorce service manager at HMCTS, says the feedback has been very positive and that new features will now be added, including an online payment capability.

The online service incorporates a ‘smart form’ with questions tailored to people’s individual circumstances and the answers they have previously provided. It also includes built-in validation to minimise the possible reasons for rejections: for example, proving people have been married for 12 months.

The current model operates by inviting divorce applications to complete their petition online with the support of a member of the project team, and the next stage will involve selected users doing so alone from home.

Lennon adds that HMCTS is still some way from delivering the finished product, but it is running the pilot to give people a simple service as quickly as possible.

GDS assessment

Looking further ahead, Lennon says the prototype will be assessed by the Government Digital Service before it is released to the public on GOV.UK.

He adds that one of the participants in the workshop commented: “Online divorce is the future. It cannot come soon enough. This will undoubtedly improve access to justice and will, in my view, provide an additional platform for those most vulnerable to break away from an abusive marriage.”

In announcing the commitment last year, Mumby said this would be a step towards the complete digitisation of the divorce process, and should enable more lay people to make their own applications online.

Image by Marc Hatol, CC BY 2.0 through flickr