The new idea became publicly available in England and Wales on 1 May 2018. It also includes ending civil partnerships. The service can be accessed at gov.uk/apply-for-divorce
Contact or further information
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The President of the High Court's Family Division, Sir James Munby, and the Chief Executive of Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) Susan Acland-Hood issued this joint statement to Family Judges and Court Staff
Apply for a divorce: Online service goes public
At the beginning of May, we publicly announced that the online divorce application has moved from private to public beta. This means that, while still being tested and improved, the new online divorce application is publicly available to individuals across England and Wales through GOV.UK
As part of our £1 billion reform programme to modernise the courts and tribunals service, we have been developing a simplified and intuitive online application process for divorce, which can be used by anyone without legal representation wishing to apply for a divorce across England and Wales, making the process easier to understand for separating couples.
Progress so far
We have been testing the online divorce application with unrepresented individuals over the last year, starting as a small pilot in the East Midlands before expanding to a restricted national pilot. Support and administration has been delivered by specialist HMCTS teams at four sites at Liverpool, Nottingham, Southampton and Stoke. Applicants were invited to fill in the divorce application form online and provide feedback, which enabled us to continuously improve the form and the experience of people using it.
Throughout the last year additional features have been added, most recently in January 2018 when changes were made to allow applicants to upload their documents, pay and submit their divorce application online. This improvement increased digital take-up by 130% compared to the initial version of the online application form. Since January, we have received over 1,100 digital divorce petitions through the new and improved online channel.
Our commitment to improving the service during testing has seen the previous high level of applications which contained errors (and could therefore not be issued) drop from 40% on paper to seven percent with the first version of the online system to a current level of less than one percent. This includes built in validation which will address the issues that have caused recent comment in relation to errors made in a small number of cases.
Improvements like these - and the ability to complete the application more easily - are already saving both applicants and court staff significant amounts of time. This will continue to increase as the service is expanded.
The online service captures user satisfaction through a survey after their petition is complete. More than nine out of ten of users said they were happy with the service provided.
Putting divorce applicants first
We worked closely with the people and organisations who use and advise those going through a divorce in order to understand what areas of the process could be improved. Those going through a divorce are at the centre of the design of the new service and we've regularly tested the design of the online application to make sure that it is as helpful and intuitive as it can be.
Our project team will continue to develop other parts of the divorce process in a phased approach: Acknowledgement of Service; Decree Nisi; and Decree Absolute. We will test these in private beta (with a small number of selected applicants), before we finally join up the constituent parts to provide a fully transformed end-to-end digital service for divorce.
We are also currently working with legal professionals to develop an online application for them to use which will allow them to submit a petition on behalf of a client online. We hope to start testing this with a small group of professional users in Summer 2018.
ONLINE DIVORCE SERVICE GOES PUBLIC : 8 May 2018
An online divorce application service for people without legal representation is now available to the public through GOV.UK meaning someone who wants a divorce can apply online – making the process easier to understand and removing some of the stress during a difficult time for couples .
Who can use the new service?
The new service can be used by anyone in England and Wales wishing to apply for a divorce without legal representation.
Will the service be available to legal professionals?
We are currently working with legal professionals to develop an online application for them to use which will allow them to submit a petition on behalf of their client online.
Where can I access the new service?
The new service is available on Gov.uk or via: www.gov.uk/apply-for-divorce
What does the service include?
The new service allows applicants to complete their divorce application, upload their documents, pay and submit online.
Is the online service available to Welsh language speakers?
The divorce project will deliver a digital divorce service for Welsh language speakers later in the project at a point when an end-to-end digital divorce journey is in place in line with agreed guidance. Paper application forms continue to be available in Welsh language for users to utilise.
When was the service launched?
Following a successful pilot which began in early 2017, the divorce project
private beta development phase, which enabled continuous
development of the product so it is suitable for wider release.
From the 31 July 2017, applicants wishing to apply for a divorce through the East Midlands Divorce Centre in Nottingham were able to create their online application from the comfort of their own home. This was subsequently extended to the West Midlands Divorce Centre in Stoke, South West Divorce Centre in Southampton and the North West Divorce Centre in Liverpool.
A further release in January 2018 delivered additional features and functionality allowing citizens who wished to apply for a divorce digitally to upload documents, pay and submit their applications online.
Since then over 1100 applications for divorce have been received and a decision was taken to make the service available to all eligible users via Gov.uk. This service launched on 1 May 2018.
Will it cost more to get a divorce?
The fees associated with applying for a Divorce remain the same whether applying using the paper or digital routes .
Does this change the law surrounding divorce?
The law on divorce remains unchanged. The same level of judicial scrutiny will be applied to all cases as with the current manual process and no steps in obtaining a divorce are being removed.
What are the next steps for the project?
The project team are currently working with legal professionals to develop an online application for them to use which will allow them to submit a petition on behalf of their client online.
The divorce project team is also developing the rest of the end-to-end system for the divorce online solution, including: Acknowledgement of Service; Decree Nisi; and Decree Absolute.
The project will continue to gather customer and user insight to assist in shaping the future design model and digital development, and this will continue throughout the project to ensure the system that is developed meets our users's needs.
Will you put in place support for people who may not be able to access computers? Or who may not have the confidence or skills to use them to resolve a dispute?
Yes. Assisted digital arrangements are in place to ensure that that those who
may have difficulty in accessing digital channels are supported. At present this
light touch assistance over the telephone, and more intensive
face-to-face support for users who are completely digitally excluded.
We are currently piloting the face-to-face provision in six locations across England and Wales with a view to extending this service if successful. Further we intend to introduce webchat functionality to support users online.