Here at Woodfines, we are always looking for quicker and more efficient ways to assist our clients in reaching the very best outcomes. That’s why our Family Law team is now using the government’s online portal for legal professionals, MyHMCTS, to issue divorce petitions and consent orders on behalf of our clients.
Following pilot testing by select law firms, the portal was rolled out to all Family Law professionals at the beginning of 2020, allowing them to apply for a divorce online on behalf of their client and progress all the way through to Decree Absolute.
Traditionally, all documentation relating to divorce cases had to be posted to one of the government’s regional divorce centres, which have come under heavy criticism in recent years for significant delays and inefficiencies. Sending a consent order in this way usually takes around three to four months, and often longer in recent times as the COVID-19 pandemic has led to huge backlogs in the family courts.
Now, however, our lawyers can use MyHMCTS to conveniently lodge consent orders with their nearest court, significantly speeding up the process. Our solicitors can also easily follow their client’s case online and receive a notification whenever a document is returned through the portal, enabling them to regularly update clients on the progress of their case.
In a recent example, a consent order took just three weeks to be issued by the courts using the online system – a massive time saving! We very much hope that HMCTS’s digital revolution will continue to reduce the agonising and stressful wait experienced by many couples before their divorce can be finalised.
In addition to divorce proceedings, legal professionals can now also use MyHMCTS to submit, pay for and manage online case applications for:
- Financial remedy
- Family public law orders
- Immigration and asylum appeals
COVID-19 and digitisation
Although HMCTS announced its £1bn court modernisation programme back in 2015, things have arguably been slow to change, with online probate and divorce applications only becoming available through MyHMCTS at the beginning of this year. However, the pandemic has prompted the rapid digitisation of legal services and led to huge changes within a matter of months.
Just eight months on from the beginning of the first lockdown, for example, remote hearings and judgments have become a matter of course within the family courts, while the speed at which other services have been made digitised has been greatly boosted by the pandemic. At the beginning of lockdown, for example, new guidance was swiftly issued saying that employment tribunals could take place via telephone or other electronic means.
Now or never
The modernisation of the legal system has been a long time coming, and we expect that our clients will greatly benefit from the widespread rollout of online legal services in the years to come. However, it’s very important to keep the momentum going even after the coronavirus crisis has ended.
At Woodfines, our digitally-savvy lawyers have fully embraced the introduction of new technology to improve our clients’ experience and outcomes. For forward-thinking family law advice and our more direct approach, contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.