Digital Divorce On The Horizon

British Judge and President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales, Sir James Munby, spoke earlier this week about the likely possibility that divorce cases could be handled online by 2017.  He believes online divorce, probate and pre-proceedings regarding children will be almost entirely digitised in the not too distant future.

Man with cupped hands holding silhouettes of a familySpeaking to Barristers at a Family Law dinner Munby predicted that future applicants, who will often be unrepresented, will issue proceedings digtially via an online questionnaire and some cases would be conducted almost entirely online, with judges interacting electronically with parties.  He believes whilst the heaviest cases will still require physical court presence these will probably be final hearings or significant interim hearings.

It was announced in November 2015 as part of the Chancellors Spending Review that £700 million would be invested to fully digitise the courts. The Government’s aim is to generate savings to the taxpayer of approximately £200 million a year from 2019-2020.  The developments Sir James Munby has been talking about this week could form an important part of this drive.  He said, “We cannot afford to be complacent or to imagine that there is not much that remains to be done – for otherwise unwelcome changes may be imposed on us from outside.  While recent progress in the court system has been rapid, with more courts using eFiles and eBundles, there is still a way to go.”

He said, “It is a visionary programme of ambition unprecedented anywhere in the world.  But it can be done.”

Here is a link to an article in the Law Society Gazette about Sir James Mumby’s speech at the Family Law Bar Association Annual Dinner.

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