UK first: Co-op joins government pilot to modernise the divorce process

06 November 2018

• New government pilot sees Co-op Legal Services reduce the time it takes to divorce from around a year to three months
• Part of a government initiative to modernise the courts
• Has the potential to positively impact over 100,000 divorces in the UK

Co-op Legal Services, one of the UK’s largest family law providers, has signed up to two new government pilots aimed to drastically reduce errors and common causes of delays in the divorce process¹.

Since the pilots launched, Co-op Legal Services has seen the time taken for a divorce to be processed reduce by 75%². According to Co-op’s data, on average a straight forward divorce takes up to 12 months. Since implementing the pilots, the business is now completing the procedure for its clients in an average of 12 weeks.

The pilots are part of the government’s plans to modernise the courts and to reduce the needs for complex paperwork. They focus on making divorce digital – removing the requirement for hard copies of divorce papers and financial orders to be posted to the courts for review.

The wait on sign off for divorce papers and financial orders can currently take up to eight months, holding up the process end to end. The new initiative allows the papers to be uploaded directly to a dedicated judge – streamlining a previously time intensive and costly process.

In the UK, an average of 100,000³ divorces take place every year. If the pilots are rolled out nationally and made a permanent part of the legal process, it could have a significant impact on people’s lives – not only for the separating parties but also any children involved. With divorce being such a deliberated decision, these new procedures will mean the process will not be prolonged if couples do decide that their marriage is beyond reconciliation.

In January this year Co-op also launched a fully comprehensive digital divorce service, meaning that couples who have finally made the decision to end their marriage can start their divorce from home, at a time that suits them.

Tracey Moloney, Head of Family Law at Co-op Legal Services, says:

“We know that divorce can be an extremely difficult and heart-wrenching time for families and lives can be turned upside down as a result. Divorce is a last resort for couples and they have often considered it for a number of months before they come to us, so they want the process to be as quick and painless as possible.

‘’We are delighted to have the opportunity to be part of these innovative government pilots aimed to make the process more succinct for our clients. Going through a divorce is often a stressful and emotionally taxing experience, so we welcome any new initiatives that can help to change this for our clients.’’

The national legal provider charges £300⁴ (including VAT) for a divorce from end to end with the support of a trained solicitor. Co-op offers fixed fees upfront before any legal work begins. An initial enquiry can be made via telephone or online, then a follow-up appointment is booked with an experienced family law solicitor to discuss individual circumstances.

Ends

For further information please contact:

Sarah Pyatt: sarah.pyatt@coop.co.uk or 07850 002 312

¹The two pilots are being trialled by the HM Courts & Tribunals Service. One pilot is aimed to reduce the time taken for divorce papers to be signed off by courts by offering the facility for them to be uploaded digitally to a dedicated judge. The second pilot allows law firms to upload financial orders digitally to a dedicated judge. Both remove the need for the time intensive posting and return of documents

²Co-op Legal Services’ business data shows that divorce time has gone from 12 months to 3 months (12 weeks). The time taken varies by court

³According to ONS data from 2017: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/divorce

⁴A divorce through Co-op Legal Services costs from £300 including VAT plus £550 court fees. For more information visit: https://www.co-oplegalservices.co.uk/family-law-solicitors/divorce/

Notes to editors
The Co-op is one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives and has a clear purpose of championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities. Owned by millions of UK consumers, the Co-op operates a total of 3,750 outlets, with more than 70,000 employees and an annual turnover of over £9 billion.

Home to the UK’s leading funeral provider, Co-op Funeralcare conducts almost 100,000 funerals annually across over 1,000 funeral homes. Combined with its leading legal services business, the Co-op is also a national provider of later life products and services ranging from funeral plans, through to wills and probate.