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‘Old’ divorce portal to be switched off on 31 March by HMCTS

As HM Courts & Tribunals Service prepares to introduce a new regime designed to remove conflict from the legal process of separation, solicitors will be unable to apply for a divorce on behalf of their clients for one week, as of the end of this month.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service has now confirmed that the ‘old service’ will be unavailable from 31 March, with a new system set to begin on 6 April.

Applications saved on the current service will need to be submitted by 4pm on 31 March, and paper applications should be received by the court by the same time.

From 31 March to 5 April, the digital service will not accept new applications. Practitioners will not be able to apply on the current paper or digital systems like before, or have access a saved digital application not yet issued by the court.

However, HMCTS will carry on accepting urgent applications in which the issue of the divorce petition is pressed to time. Decree nisi and decree absolute applications that have been issued will be saved and continue to be available on the service.

The new system pilots a new era of ‘no-fault’ divorce, taking away the ability to make allegations about aspouse’s conduct, and enable couples to end their marriage jointly.

HMCTS confirmed that it has communicated with practitioners about the updated system, including focus groups, interviews, demonstrations and discussions to explain and test the upcoming changes and collect feedback.

‘Since it was possible to submit applications for divorce online in 2018, followed by the whole process going online during 2019, we have found that a significant number of clients are comfortable handling the process themselves. The system is user-friendly and straightforward for simple divorces,’ Clyne stated.

A partner in the family team at Fletcher Day, Caroline Ford, commented: ‘In circumstances under the present law, where a divorce petition uses unreasonable behaviour there is the cost to the client of drafting a list of unreasonable behaviours sufficient to convince a judge that there should be a divorce. This cost will be removed, resulting in the costs of divorce being less.

‘The removal under the new law of the ability to defend the decision to divorce means that there will be no legal fees in connection with defended divorces. As a result of the new divorce law coming into force, Fletcher Day’s fees for divorce will be less than usual as the time it takes to draft the divorce petition is reduced.’

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