Swindon Family Lawyer, Catherine Smith, explains the online divorce process which has become increasingly popular during lockdown. Catherine is available on 01793 615011. You can also contact her by email, or by completing the Contact Form at the foot of this page.
While it seems that COVID has been the catalyst for so many things becoming available online, it’s been possible to apply for divorce online since April 2018. Where COVID has made a significant impact though is in the growing number of people inquiring about divorce, which is, regrettably, the result of protracted periods of lockdown.
Apply for divorce online
Having the ability to apply for divorce online means that you can avoid paper-based forms. Instead, a straightforward divorce application online takes you through the required questions. Whether you apply for divorce online or use the paper-based forms, the court fee is currently the same – £550.00.
Divorce application online
The court receives the divorce papers online and issues the divorce petition, a copy of which is then sent to your spouse (the Respondent). Once the Respondent has acknowledged receipt of the divorce petition, you can apply to the court for a decree nisi and then, after waiting the relevant period of time – not less than 6 weeks – apply for a decree absolute, which formally ends the marriage.
It’s important to remember that a divorce only ends what lawyers call the ‘legal contract’ of marriage. It does not result in your matrimonial finances being reasonably shared. That requires a separate application for a financial remedy, otherwise known as a Divorce Financial Order.
Divorce Financial Order Online
This is a process that was formerly known as ancillary relief. As of 21 June 2021, if divorce finances are straightforward, it is now also possible to make an application for a Divorce Financial Order online. More complex applications still need to be in writing. You can make an application for a Divorce Financial Order online if the application does not:
- include a request for a freezing order/injunction or an element of maintenance pending suit;
- require personal service on the Respondent;
- require translation into the Welsh language.
Before applying to the court for a Divorce Financial Order online or on paper, you will need to attend mediation, unless you fall into one of the exempt categories. This is because when applying to the court for a Divorce Financial Order, the court will require evidence of your attendance at mediation, or evidence that you fall into one of those exempt categories.
Divorce with children
Also, a divorce does not resolve any disputes concerning with whom children should live or have contact. If children arrangements are not agreed, an application will need to be made to the court, who will then decide the arrangements by means of a Child Arrangements Order.
Do I need a solicitor for online divorce?
Whether or not you are pursuing an online divorce or divorce by the more traditional route, there is no requirement for you to be legally represented. However, while a divorce application online makes the application itself easier, we still recommend that you first seek legal advice from a specialist solicitor. This is because it’s really helpful to fully understand your legal position before you start discussing with your spouse arrangements for your home, finances and children.
Even if things are reasonably amicable and you end up negotiating most things between yourselves, talking initially to a solicitor can help you clarify what you need to think about and what you can expect to receive in your divorce financial settlement.
With regard to children, if emotions are running high – or are likely to – a solicitor will recommend family mediation which is a process to help facilitate agreement between you. In any event, the court will expect both parties to have attended mediation, or fall into one of the exempt categories, before asking the court to decide the matter by means of a Child Arrangements Order.
Find out more about our specialist Family Mediation Service.
It’s important to note, however, that if you use our mediation service, we will not be able to act for you in respect of any of the divorce and family proceedings discussed above.