In 2018 HMCTS launched its online divorce service, seemingly streamlining the process required for couples to begin a divorce petition.

It has been reported that just 18 months later, 40 per cent of divorce petitions are being started online.

Andrew Smith, a partner at Lupton Fawcett Solicitors and expert in matrimonial and family law, considers the online divorce process:

Is it easy to do? It is more user-friendly and doesn’t contain as much legal jargon.

Is it quicker? No. The family court was already experiencing long delays and the online service makes no difference. The online petition must still be checked over and so the ‘human’ element remains. It still takes up to 60 weeks to get divorced.

Do I have to have a solicitor to apply for a divorce? No but be wary of mistakes which can be made; particularly when you choose a ‘fact’ on which to base the breakdown of your marriage. If you choose adultery as the fact of the breakdown make sure you have conclusive proof, or the confession of your spouse. If you choose ‘unreasonable behaviour’ make sure the allegations of bad behaviour are strong enough. Beware the 2018 case of Owens v Owens in which Mrs Owens was refused the right to divorce her husband.

A solicitor will be able to advise you if you are choosing the correct fact and the potential pitfalls.

Do I have to do anything after I receive my Decree Absolute? The Decree Absolute is the final pronouncement of divorce. However, if you have financial assets together such as a house you will still need to deal with those. It is not advisable to divorce before you have dealt with all of your finances.

Beware the 2015 case of Vince v Wyatt in which a multi-millionaire husband faced a financial claim from his former wife 22 years after their divorce.

At Lupton Fawcett we have acted for many clients who have started an online divorce in good faith, only to face difficulties later on which need to be rectified. It can be a false economy to apply for a divorce completely on your own.

We would urge everybody applying for a divorce to instruct a solicitor from the outset, at the very least to advise in the ‘background’ when the application is made.