The rise of the internet: What is an online divorce?

Plans to modernise the divorce process are now in motion. ‘Digital divorces’ will soon enable those looking to separate from their partner to complete the application process online.

Earlier this year, the Courts launched a successful pilot scheme in Nottingham to test carrying out divorces digitally and moving the process online.

Submitting an application form (i.e. a petition) for a divorce will be a similar application process to using other government websites; for example, applying for car tax or passports online.

The system will initially be aimed at those who do not wish to use a solicitor to get a divorce. A new, more user-friendly divorce application form has already been introduced generally.

The new system is part of an overall programme of modernisation of the Court system. Many divorce petitions are rejected by the Court because they have not been completed correctly. Even if petitions get past the first hurdle of being accepted, they often stall when applications are made for Decree Nisi. The Court will streamline the process by asking for all relevant information at the start of the divorce.

The Government wants to reduce delay and administrative costs associated with rejecting forms and the law not being understood. At present, approximately 40% of all divorce petitions submitted to the Court are rejected.

The Court aims to take payments of the Court fee online and, in due course, dispense with the requirement to file paper copies of original marriage certificates – instead they are planning to accept uploaded versions. In time, those developing the system hope to be able to link the site to the Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths to enable copied certificates to be merged from one site to the next.

The new system will be rolled out in due course for civil partnerships and judicial separation, with a portal system introduced for solicitors to access.

Our Family Law team regularly assists those who have started divorce proceedings through other online providers, but who are unable to complete the process if proceedings are not straightforward; for example, if the forms are not returned by the person responding to the divorce, if proceedings are defended, or if a spouse cannot be found.

For more information or to arrange a free, no obligation consultation, please contact our Family Law team on 0113 201 4902 or email

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