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.