Digital divorces will be implemented in the UK as early as next year, giving couples the ability to split without either party needing to head to the courtroom.
“When it has been done, we will at last have escaped from a court system … moored in the world of the late Mr Charles Dickens,” president of the High Court’s family division Sir James Munby told The Daily Mail.
Munby said that reforming the system would improve lives and save money in a speech to the Family Law Bar Association.
“We still have a long way to go to the entirely digitised and paperless court … though this is, 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,” Munby said.
Uncontested divorces make up the majority of divorces in England and Wales and under the current legislation, neither the husband nor wife needs to attend court, a divorce is instead pushed through by legal officials at a regional court centre.
Under the new system, a couple who have agreed to divorce will be able to answer an online questionnaire, answering questions about their marital history, wealth and income as well as arrangements made for their children without even a district judge attending court to supervise.
But the new arrangement has family campaigners arguing that an online divorce system would devalue marriage by making divorce too easy.
“Marriage is a serious business … Divorce requires time, thought and deliberate intent, not speed, efficiency and the throwaway ease of an online form. It would be wrong to relegate divorce to little more than a tweet. It should be done as it begins, in person,” said The Marriage Foundation’s Harry Benson.
The Daily Mail reported that Ministry of Justice official had declined to comment, saying the reforms were still in an early stage.