We live in a world in which we are increasingly electing to do certain things using online platforms such as grocery shopping and paying bills. It is becoming a way of life; the new norm so to speak. While it is fair to say that law has been slow in the uptake, some legal processes are now occurring in cyberspace.
From 1st March 2017 an Application for Divorce will no longer be able to be filed in person at the Family Court Registry. Rather, it will need to be e-filed via the Commonwealth Courts Portal.
What does this change mean for clients?
For clients who prefer to engage a Family Law Solicitor to file the Divorce Application on their behalf, the move to e-filing will have little to no impact except that it may mean that they have to spend a little more time with their solicitor when completing and signing the application. Additionally, as payment of the filing fee must be made via credit card when e-filing, the Solicitor could use the client’s credit card, instead of necessitating that the client deposit funds into the trust account, waiting a few days before the Application can be filed and a hearing date set, as was the case in the past. However, for many individuals who had intended to forgo the services of a solicitor and file their own Application for Divorce, this may present a few challenges.
The new online process will require the Applicant to firstly create a file on the Commonwealth Courts portal in readiness to complete the Application online. Part-way through, the Application will have to be saved in order for a copy to be printed. Another court document called an e-affidavit will also need to be printed, and both documents will need to be taken to a solicitor or Justice of the Peace to be signed by the Applicant. Once completed the e-affidavit needs to be scanned and uploaded to finalise the on-line Application ready to serve their spouse.
This new process has been developed to alleviate the demand on Court Registry Staff. While the online process will be embraced by many tech-savvy individuals, to those that may not be so tech-savvy; the stop and start nature of the process will no doubt be perceived by many as being ‘messy’ and somewhat ‘clunky’. Indeed, to those lacking a reasonable standard of computer literacy (or appropriate facilities, including the ability to scan documents), this process will seem an insurmountable obstacle. Certainly, many may give up altogether and employ a solicitor to undertake what they previously would have felt confident in undertaking on their own.
For support or advice with this, or any other Family Law matter, feel free to contact Joanna Diamantopoulos or the team at Welden & Coluccio Lawyers.