Could divorces be moving online by 2017?

Could divorces be moving online by 2017?

It seems that everything is becoming digital these days, from the emergence of online estate agents to the transfer of holiday bookings to the internet that has almost wiped out traditional estate agents as we knew them. But is one of the most complicated legal issues about to take the same step and move towards the age of the internet?

According to reports, divorce and probate is one area that could become a digital concern, with one judge even suggesting that people could be applying and carrying out their divorce proceedings via laptops and tablets as early as next year.

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, said in an address to the Family Law Bar Association that the divorce system will be modernising within the near future.

“Some processes will be almost entirely digitised: early examples will be digital online probate and digital online divorce, both planned for at least initial implementation early in 2017. Some proceedings will be conducted almost entirely online, even down to and including the final hearing. The judge, who will not need to be in a courtroom, will interact electronically with the parties and, if they have them, their legal representatives,” he said.

This move would mean that the simpler and more straightforward cases could be heard online, while the more complex and challenging cases would still have to come in front of a judge in the more traditional ways.

It is unlikely this will apply to complex financial issues where judicial input is required to resolve matters in dispute or where legal principles are being tested.

“The heaviest cases will, of course, continue to require the traditional gathering of everyone together in a courtroom, although probably only for the final hearing and any really significant interim hearings,” he suggested, adding that other cases that took the online approach would make use of video-calling technologies when it came to discussions with the judge.

So is the internet really the future of the divorce as we know it? Only time will tell, but it certainly seems that there are some within the system who would like to see the process modernised in the very near future.

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Vanessa McMurtrie

Partner, Family

Vanessa trained and then qualified as a solicitor in 1991 with Hart Brown working in the Cobham office's family department for a decade. She then...

Partner, Family

Vanessa McMurtrie

Vanessa trained and then qualified as a solicitor in 1991 with Hart Brown working in the Cobham office's family department for a decade. She then worked for us on a part time consultancy basis while devoting more time to her family. During this period she was instrumental in implementing Hart Brown’s family department’s case management system and later, the quality system that led to the firm’s ISO 9001 accreditation.

In 2005 Vanessa returned to client work and joined Mackrell Turner Garrett where she stayed for ten years, before re-joining Hart Brown in 2015. Vanessa knows Woking and the surrounding area well and enhances the work covered at our Woking office as part of the family team.

Vanessa has been a Resolution member since 1991, committed to resolving disputes in a non-confrontational and constructive way. She has served on the Surrey Resolution committee since 2008. She is a Resolution accredited collaboratively trained lawyer and welcomes the opportunity to help separating couples adopt this process as an alternative to the more traditional options available.

Over the years, Vanessa has gained a wealth of experience in dealing with all the legal aspects of relationships coming to an end. She prides herself on being approachable and understanding as she helps her clients go through the legal process.