From September 2021, all applications for divorce must be made online, the government has announced. Previously online filings were an option but not obligatory.
The new requirement, first announced in August, applies to marriages but not to the dissolution of civil partnerships. Civil partners will still need to apply on paper to the regional divorce centre at Bury St Edmunds, as will applicants for judicial separation and nullity.
Judicial separation is a rarely sought alternative to divorce in which the parties remain legally married but lead separate lives. This can be an appealing option for couples who have a religious objective to divorce.
A declaration of nullity, meanwhile, is a legal statement that a legally valid marriage never took place. This can be for a variety for reasons – for example, if a marriage-like ceremony took place but it was never properly registered.
Divorce applications are made via the MyHMCTS web portal, originally launched in 2018. This has already processed over 150,000 divorce applications, according to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).
Adam Lennon is a Deputy Director at HMCTS. He said:
“Covid-19 has shown how MyHMCTS helps us to provide a modern, reliable service. Applications are proceeding more smoothly, and we now return fewer than 1 per cent of online applications compared to around 20 per cent of paper applications for legal representatives to amend or provide more information. That means divorcing couples can move forward with their lives faster.”
To discuss a prospective divorce application, please contact the Partners on 01223 443333.