At Woolley & Co we have been doing our work online since last century. Now there is astonishing news from the court system. Sir James Munby set out what he positioned as not just a vision, but something that can be achieved within four years with initial implementation from 2017: online divorce. Radical times indeed! Mind you given the way changes to the court fees for divorce were recently handled I’m not holding my breath for a smooth implementation.
Now you may think we have had online divorce for some time. We haven’t. What we have had are certain complicated legal forms available online to download. Firms offering to carry out the divorce for you with information supplied online. A massive explosion of information about divorce online and the resulting massive rise in the number of people looking for divorce online. But we have not had online – or digital – divorce.
This is a development long overdue. We have been saying this for years. The legal sector has been left behind because of its reluctance to adopt the digital age and its dogged grip on traditional practices that may have been necessary 100 years ago, but bring little benefit now.
I established this firm 20 years ago to embrace the emerging technology, emailing documents, working around modern family routines, but we could only go so far. Once we had to connect directly to the legal system, the pace slowed, technology was shunned and everything was paper and snail-mail driven. It looks like this may finally be changing.
For a start, this approach will reduce costs for all concerned. It will also cut the time it takes to progress cases and reduce the likelihood of documentation going astray. My hope is that our clients can do the legal ending of the marriage themselves - if they wish - and keep the power where it should be; with the people involved.
Divorce online – don’t be too hasty
However, there is a need for caution here. Divorce is not just about sorting out the paperwork. There are all sorts of other considerations, the most obvious ones being arrangements for children and decisions over finances. There is a danger that people will not fully consider the legal ramifications and rush into the digital revolution without first taking the proper advice.
The key to the success of this brave new world is making sure people get that advice – the right advice – when they need it from a family law specialist. As such, the services of solicitors such as my own firm should be geared up for this and for fitting advice and meetings in around the time-poor modern day client. A good example of this approach is the success of our growing library of video advice clips.
Statistics show access to the internet from mobile phones has more than doubled to 58 per cent between 2010 and 2014, with 68 per cent of adults accessing information online while on the move. So, rather than just having articles to read on a website, giving bite sized chunks of information on divorce topics via different media is putting it in a format that is most client-friendly.
We now have 132 videos available on line to watch anytime, anywhere. In October, 3,610 minutes of the videos were watched, compared to 1,489 in the same month last year. So far this year, 22 days and 19 hours’ worth of our videos have been viewed, with an average viewing time of two minutes – which is the length of many of the videos.
We are using the available technology to provide clients with a service that suits their needs. Sir James Munby seems to suggest that the sector could soon be getting with the programme. We hope so. It’s long overdue.
Woolley & Co, Divorce & Family Specialists