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‘Christmas Day becomes Divorce Day’

As 2018 drew to a close and people celebrated the start of a New Year, others began the divorce process as it was revealed that a total of 455 applications were made between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. 26 people submitted applications on Christmas Eve, 13 on Christmas Day, 23 on Boxing Day and 77 on New Year’s Day.

Ammanda Major from relationship support charity Relate comments on the statistics indicating that the additional stress of Christmas triggers a problem as “Pressures can build up when people are spending an extended period of time together”. The introduction of the online divorce application process is likely to have helped spouses in this predicament.

What impact has the online divorce petition service had on divorce rates?

Since May 2018 spouses have been able to complete the divorce application process using the internet. The online divorce petition service has allowed those wishing to obtain a divorce an easier access to these means. The service provides access for couples seeking a divorce at all times of the year. The ability for an application to be filled in online, fees paid through the system and documents uploaded means that there is no delay for spouses in sending the divorce paperwork. The ease and speed of this process in a few clicks may have attracted those over the Christmas period.

The online service has apparently resulted in a reduced number of errors in application forms. Records show that there has been a decrease from 40% to 1%. The popularity of the service is proven by the 23,000 applications which have been made since this service was launched with 85% of users being apparently satisfied with this service and the additional introduction of the online civil money claims service.

What does this mean for divorce rates in the future?

Divorce rates for opposite-sex couples in England and Wales are still at their lowest level since 1973, according to the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics. In 2017, there was a decrease of 5% on the previous year. The steady decline in marriages could be down to the increasing number of couples choosing to cohabit. The online divorce petition service is however, likely to make it an easier process to begin the divorce process and may result in rates increasing.

Why seek assistance from a solicitor?

The need and support of a solicitor is however not to be forgotten, and there is still a consensus they will always be required in the divorce process. The filing of divorce petitions may not be as simple for some, for example spouses having name complications on marriage certificates or the need for assistance in the difficulty of having to prove adultery. These issues can be unsettling for clients to undertake alone and the online service is lacking in the provision of support and assistance. Some applicants have experienced the Court ’losing’ petitions resulting in months of delays.

Petitions relying on adultery have also resulted in defended divorces due to the lack of admission and no proof. It is therefore crucial spouses do their research and benefit from the support that solicitors offer before committing their full reliance online. There are various nuances regarding the completion of divorce petitions which are not always apparent from the application form or indeed the additional guidance. It is very important not to rely on the internet and only the internet as unfortunately not all cases will proceed efficiently.


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Ellie Stansfield

Family Law
0113 322 2855
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Ellie Stansfield Blacks Solicitors LLP