Divorce applications up in first week of ‘no fault’ era
By Monidipa Fouzder >>
(14 April 2022)
HM Courts & Tribunals Service has received 3,000 divorce applications in the week following the introduction of reforms designed to make the separation process less acrimonious – a 50% rise on the weekly average.
A system introducing provisions under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act came into force last Wednesday, meaning divorcing couples are no longer required to assign blame for the breakdown of their marriage.
Taking questions during a webinar for legal professionals on the new divorce service on Tuesday, HMCTS officials revealed that they have received around 3,000 applications under the new regime.
Official statistics show that last year, a total of 107,724 divorce petitions were filed – which works out at 2,071 applications per week.
On application costs, attendees were told that applicants do not have to pay the £593 fee twice if they are unable to progress with a joint application and subsequently have to submit a sole application. Asked about joint applicants wishing to split payment, HMCTS said the system can only accept one payment in full.
Early feedback gathered by the Gazette on the new system appears to be mostly positive.
Julius Brookman, a partner at London firm Fletcher Day, said: ‘The introduction of no-fault divorce has led to a run of enquiries at this firm and something of a collective sigh of relief. I had a petition we had to file urgently where the parties were deeply involved in disputing particulars and they now wish to file a new petition which takes out their major initial grudges and gripes. Likewise, I have had existing clients saying they would like to file now so that they do not have to spend time haggling over apparently anodyne parts of the petition. The new terminology from the courts also offers some clarity to parties who has previously been perplexed by the old use of words.’
Sarah Scott, an associate at London firm Osbornes Law, has already issued a petition on the new system. She found it easy to navigate ‘and so far, no teething problems’.
However, solicitor Tony Roe, of Reading firm Dexter Montague, said that when he tried to file his first ‘no fault’ divorce, he received a message stating ‘Sorry, we’re experiencing technical problems’.
HMCTS told the Gazette that practitioners who experience error messages should contact the courts and tribunals service centre at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0300 303 0642. A webchat service is also available.
A spokesperson said: ‘Our new digital system is designed to be robust and create a better experience for users. It has been running smoothly since it launched on 6 April.’
(Courtesy: The Law Scoiety Gazette)