eDivorce: is this the new face of divorce?

The Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court have announced an "eDivorce strategy". By the end of this month (September 2016), both courts will accept and process Applications for Divorce online with users completing an interactive series of questions. This is the first step towards a completely electronic divorce filing system and could spell the end of the traditional method of completing and filing a paper form.

In an effort to promote the new system, the Court has removed the downloadable "Application for Divorce Kit" from their website. Instead, users are directed to use the Commonwealth Court's Portal to complete the interactive online form. It is important to note that as part of the eDivorce application, users will still need to scan and upload supporting documentation such as affidavits and marriage certificates. The Commonwealth Court Portal has supported electronic filing for a number of years now, however previously, users had to download and complete the required paper documents and then scan and upload these into the system.

There are benefits to eDivorce such as:

  • no need to queue at the Registry;
  • being able to select the most suitable court date for a Divorce hearing; and
  • receiving email notifications and alerts about the status of an application.

For now, the Court recognises that some people may not have access to the internet, a scanner or a credit card. There may also be issues for people with limited English skills or people who simply do not have the time or inclination to do this themselves. Paper Divorce Kits are still available from the National Enquiry Centre and can be filed by post or over the counter.

As the rise of technology continues, many Court jurisdictions are embracing a shift towards electronic filing and this development continues that trend. At Mellor Olsson, we encourage this but also recognise that 'DIY' or eDivorce won't appeal to everyone. For those with complicated circumstances that may require some explanation, such as those with more than one separation period or people who are separated but still living in the same residence, we would suggest that you still seek legal advice prior to filing an electronic application.

Filing for divorce is a significant decision and one that requires careful consideration. The family law specialists at Mellor Olsson are here to help and can talk you through the steps and process, while helping you make the best decisions for your individual circumstances.

The rise of eDivorce and further developments in technology could change the way that the Court deals with divorce forever. Time will tell whether soon divorce applications will only be accepted through electronic filing - watch this space!

This article was written by Catherine Leis, a senior associate in our family law team.

Practice Area: Family Law

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