Divorce cases to move online in 2017, says Munby
2nd Mar 2016
Divorce cases could begin to move almost entirely online by 2017, the president of the family division has said.
Sir James Munby told barristers that, in the future, some court processes will be almost entirely digitised by early 2017, citing online divorce and online probate as early examples.
Speaking at the Family Law Bar Association annual dinner, he said: “In times of austerity, and faced with ever increasing numbers of litigants in person, we must constantly strive to improve, to streamline and to simplify the system.”
He continued to say that an entirely paperless and digitised court must be a “vision not of some distant future but of what has to be, and I believe can be, achieved over the next four years of the courts modernisation programme”.
He said that in future applicants, who will often be unrepresented, will issue proceedings online through a digital questionnaire which would take all relevant information in a user-friendly way.
Some proceedings would be conducted almost entirely online, with judges interacting electronically with parties and their legal representatives, “if they have them”. Although the heaviest cases will require physical court cases, these would probably only be for the final hearing or significant interim hearings.
On other developments in family courts, Munby said that some courts will soon pilot schemes for judicial involvement in the pre-proceedings phase of some care cases in order to “make the child’s journey through the case system as seamless as possible.”
He told the bar to ‘Make the most of direct access. Make the most of the barrister’s equivalent of what the solicitor knows as unbundled legal services. Consider the offer of guaranteed fixed fees. Embrace the opportunities for advocacy in the context of the ever-expanding range of non-court dispute resolution services – arbitration in particular.”