We were introduced to the project by a preview of a video about the proposed online reform, part of a £1bn investment which will supposedly deliver savings of £250m in annual running costs. The video covers various areas of law and mentions that in future, we may see video hearings. The government is exploring extending court opening hours. More case officers for judges are to be employed. However it made no mention of how to tackle the shortage of judges.
The video that details the HMCTS programme has just been released (tinyurl.com/k584dvu).
It seems that family modernisation is leading the way, being one of a small number of similar digital projects involving, for example, probate and tribunals. The government’s ‘agile methodology’ approach to projects means that new processes are built bit by bit, starting with the petition in this case.
‘Apply for a divorce’ is ultimately intended to be a simple online service for the 98% of divorces that are uncontested and will ‘vastly improve the experience’.
No changes are to be made to primary legislation underlying these processes. A new practice direction (36D) appeared on 25 January, enabling the pilot scheme in the East Midlands Divorce Centre. This will be followed by others. The next, for example, will cover online submission.
Tony Roe, Principal, solicitor and family law arbitrator, Tony Roe Solicitors, Reading, Berkshire