Online divorce petitions finalised less often than paper petitions

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In response to a freedom of information request made by The International Family Law Group, the Ministry of Justice has provided information suggesting that online divorces are less likely to result in a final divorce decree.

According to the MoJ:

  • In the period July-September 2018, 14% fewer online divorces proceeded to a first decree compared with paper divorces, with 7% fewer online divorces having a final decree absolute.
  • In the period October-December 2018, the figures were correspondingly higher at 23% and 18%.
  • In the 12 months from April 2018 to March 2019, as many as 10 to 19% of petitions were not even acknowledged by the respondent, which seems to indicate they were either not served or the couple decided not to proceed, with probably only relatively few needing special arrangements for service.
  • There was no difference between paper and online divorces in the percentage of the acknowledgements by a respondent.
  • Of the petitions lodged on Christmas Day 2018, 54% have reached the first decree stage, broadly consistent with the petitions issued between October and December 2018.
  • Of divorces issued between October and December 2018, 30% of paper divorces and 12% of online divorces had reached the final Decree Absolute stage, thereby rebutting the perception that it always takes more than 12 months to obtain a divorce because of court delays.

If this pattern persists as use of online divorce petitions increases, it may suggest that the relative ease of issuing a petition online means that people issue them prematurely, which underlines the importance of checking with the couples who present as having made a final decision about separation that this really is the case.

For more information on this story, have a look at the Family Law Week article at https://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed202491