What has happened?

The time taken for paper-based divorces to be processed in the UK has increased significantly in comparison to last year.

What does this mean?

On averagein 2020 a paper-based divorce took 66.5 weeks to finalize, this is a 7 week increase in comparison to 2019, during which paper-based divorces took 59.6 weeks to process. This significant increase has occurred as a result of the United Kingdom’s (UK) lock down; the closure of the courts resulted in a severe back log.

This may account for the recent rise in the number of digital divorces, which now accounts for 40% of divorce applications. The time taken to complete a digital divorce is less than a third of the time taken for a paper divorce, taking on average only 20 weeks. Despite the increase of digital divorces, this has not helped to improve or quicken to process of paper-based divorces.

How does this impact the legal sector?

The impact of the lockdown has been felt hardest by the Family Court. Priority has been given to cases such as, domestic abuse and child proceedings however, many other divorce related cases such as, financial remedy proceedings have been postponed, extending the time taken for divorces to be completed.

The Divorce Dissolution Bill is expected to come into action in 2021 and will introduce the benefit of a no-fault divorce. However, there is a 20 week wait time from filing an initial divorce petition before applying for a Decree Nisi – the first divorce order.Many are in favour of the removal of this element of the bill before it becomes law, in order to reduce time taken to complete a divorce.

Many are in favour of adopting a French divorce system, once both parties agree their marriage has broken down and after a 15-day period to reconcile, the divorce can proceed. In total, the procedure cost only £45 in comparison to £550 in the UK. This would result in a faster and cheaper divorce process.