Prediction contained in his speech to the FLBA Annual Dinner
A new era where the public applies for divorce online could start as early as 2017. So says the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, who mentioned this date in a speech to the annual FLBA dinner on 26 February.
The digital revolution in the courts was the central theme of the speech so alongside setting a date for the 'at least initial implementation' of online divorce applications he also stressed that the
"digital court of the future with its large population of unrepresented litigants will demand other radical changes to what at present seems so important and so deeply entrenched in our professional cultures".
Chief among these are the rules themselves and he described the Family Procedure Rules
"as a masterpiece of traditional, if absurdly over-elaborate, drafting. But they are unreadable by litigants in person and, truth be told, largely unread by lawyers. They are simply not fit for purpose.....
.... to the extent that we still need them, [Rules] must be short and written in simple, plain English. But in reality, much that is currently embodied in rules will in future simply be embedded in the software of the digital court."
In the shorter term, Sir James also highlighted other initiatives around the country that are seeking to streamline the family justice system, including the use of Settlement Conferences for both private and public law children proceedings. These are the 'broad equivalent' of FDRs in financial remedy proceedings and are used well in Canada. A pilot scheme under way in Liverpool is showing encouraging signs of success.
The full text of the speech is available on the Judiciary website here.