2015 heralded lots of significant changes for divorce and family law.
We started the year with the government expressing concern about the potential for geographical ‘advice deserts’ and the likely ‘effect of geographical provision …of civil and family law’(1) services following the cuts to legal aid for the majority of family law cases.
The rational behind their introduction (to make the act of divorce more procedural) was welcomed by many in the sector.
We experienced and overcame the inevitable ‘teething problems’ that accompany any major change in structure or practice. And concluded the year with a disappointing delay to the second reading of the ‘No Fault Divorce Bill’ which is now expected to take place in the new year.
As a nation the way in which we divorce certainly changed in 2015.
And whilst there was a reduction in the number of providers offering legal aid services (down from 1,899 in 2013 to 1,435 in 2014 (2)) the legal services sector has responded robustly with many providers offering fixed fee, low cost and online solutions. As such geographical boundaries are becoming less relevant.
So what does this mean for those couples making the difficult decision to separate and divorce in 2016.
In 2016 you can literally get divorced from the comfort of your own home and commentators will inevitably be quick to criticise the advances currently taking place within the sector.
But we should try and remember that making the decision to end a marriage/civil partnership is hard enough for those involved, and is rarely taken lightly.
Advancements that improve the current process should be embraced and not derided.
In 2011 a report by the Family Justice Review recommended that ‘the process for initiating divorce should begin with the online hub and should be dealt with administratively by the court, unless the divorce is disputed'(3).
In 2015 the MOJ took a big step in the right direction with the introduction of Divorce Centres, the Single Family Court with a single jurisdiction and a single point of entry.
But whilst we welcome such changes this is only a partial step towards streamlining the divorce process.
Unfortunately it is the private sector that is once again leading the way. Personally at my own company DivorceBox.com an online provider offering edivorce we ensure that all our services are compatible across all devices and platforms. And we aim to make the divorce process as smooth as possible.
Divorce is not a situation in which people, ‘choose to litigate’, a divorce application is legally the only way in which you can dissolve a marriage/civil partnership and as such should be made as simple as possible.
Carmen Hudson (LLB) is a director and head of legal of operations at DivorceBox.com a online legal service provider specialising in online divorce (e-divorce).
After 15 years in dispute resolution she founded DivorceBox to offer a less intimidating alternative to traditional legal services.
- Justice – Eighth Report: Impact of changes to civil legal aid under Part 1 of LASPO Act 2012, 4 March 2015, Ch 5 (para 73) 2015.
- Justice – Eighth Report: Impact of changes to civil legal aid under Part 1 of LASPO Act 2012, 4 March 2015 Ch 5 (para 74) 2015.
- Family Justice Review, Final Report 2011, p25 (para 131) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/217343/family-justice-review-final-report.pdf