Digital Divorce – What Does This Mean?

By Jasmine Rudder

Trainee Solicitor

From 13th September, HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has confirmed that the divorce process is to be purely digital, meaning legal representatives must submit applications for divorce online rather than using the conventional paper D8 form.

HMCTS continued to process paper applications, allowing a transition period from Tuesday 14 September until Monday 4 October. This means that any paper applications received from Tuesday 5 October will be returned. The exceptions to this are civil partnership, judicial separation, and nullity.

Why has this change been made?

The paperless divorce route offers a more efficient way for people to get divorced, as it enables divorces to be finalised much quicker.

In April to June 2021, the median time to decree nisi was 14 weeks and 29 weeks to decree absolute, totalling 43 weeks for the finalisation of a divorce. These applications were made using the conventional paper D8 form. In comparison, during the same period, but instead using the digital process, the average time to decree nisi was 12 weeks and 22 weeks from petition to decree absolute, totalling 34 weeks for the finalisation of a divorce.  

The online service offers prompts and guidance to assist people in completing their application and the whole process can be completed online, including payment, and uploading supporting evidence, if the divorce remains uncontested.

Court staff currently spend around 13,000 hours dealing with complex paper divorce forms, but this online service has already contributed massively to a drop in the number of applications being returned because of mistakes, when compared with paper forms.

This will also speed up the process and ease the pressure off backlogged courts, ready in time for the introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 on 6 April 2022, which aims to allow people to obtain a finalised divorce within 26 weeks.

As the new system becomes properly integrated, it will significantly lessen the stress of divorcing, and the digital system will ensure people are being properly supported through an often difficult and painful time.

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