Alarm bells are ringing across family law firms after the Courts and Tribunals service issued a note on its online divorce portal overnight, warning users that new applications for divorce will soon close due to upcoming law changes in April 2022 (no fault divorce).
The message, read as follows: ‘This service will close soon due to changes in divorce legislation. Submit your saved application as soon as possible so they do not get returned. For new applications, consider waiting until the replacement service is launched – otherwise you may have to submit them again.’
Since last year, all new divorce petitions were required to be submitted via the court’s online portal, bringing an end to paper applications through the post. Whilst the aim was to create more efficiency for the court, the reality is that the system was far from perfect at the outset. Nevertheless, we at Maguire Family Law have seen a much faster turnaround in the processing of applications, and overall, the change to online divorce applications has been a relatively positive one.
The portal has also seen the introduction of parties being able to file financial consent orders for approval, and in some financial remedy centres, court’s are accepting new contested financial remedy applications.
However, with the warning that the portal is due to “close soon” there is a wave of uncertainty which faces not only us as family lawyers, but separating couples wanting to begin the process of divorce.
Some issues we see include the following:
- When will the portal close?
- How will divorce applications that have already been submitted be progressed?
- Will paper applications for divorce be accepted by the court in the meantime?
- What about urgent cases, especially those where seizing the jurisdiction of England and Wales is required in cases involving international elements, or in cases where freezing order injunctions are required?
- What will the impact be on submitting financial consent orders, or starting new contested financial remedy proceedings?
The court’s approach in their ambiguous warning that their divorce portal is about to close has been described as “shambolic” and “wholly unsatisfactory”. We agree, and it isn’t good enough. However, what we now need to do is focus our attention on providing the absolute best service for our clients that we can, and our advice is that if you are considering starting a divorce application, then you need to act sooner rather than later to avoid what could potentially be a month or so of legal limbo.
We have been seeing more couples who want to divorce putting things on hold until April 2022 when the no fault divorce changes take effect. Many couples simply do not want to engage in the outdated process of one needing to blame the other for the breakdown in their marriage. We tend to see, in situations where parties have remained reasonably amicable, that there is no major problem in waiting to commence their divorce by a few months, and indeed this does not stop them being able to enter into discussions about resolving issues they face about how their financial arrangements should be resolved, or what plans should be put in place for their children.
No two separating couples are alike, so the key thing for everyone is to take proper legal advice at the outset so they can have a clear picture of the road ahead of them, with guidance as to what is likely to suit their situation. Maguire Family Law are specialist divorce and child law solicitors and we provide a bespoke service to all our clients. We take into account the full nuances of each of their particular set of circumstances, so the key takeaway from the current divorce arena at this time is to make sure you are fully aware of all the legal options you have, as well as all the legal rights that you are entitled to when considering a divorce.
For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: email@example.com or telephone: