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The Money and Divorce blog is brought to you by Intelligent Divorce, the new way to get fixed-fee specialist legal advice on splitting your money when you divorce.

Our blog provides illustrated practical guides for those going through the divorce process, plus news on divorce, money and family breakdown.

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7 January 2019

Thousands apply online for divorce - including 13 on Christmas Day

Hundreds of people applied for a divorce over the Christmas and New Year period, the government has revealed, in its latest announcement claiming success in moving justice processes online, reports Family Lore Focus.

In total more than 23,000 applications for divorce have been made online since the service was launched last April. That includes 455 applications filed between 24 December and 1 January – with 13 submitted on Christmas Day itself.

The Ministry of Justice is keen to proclaim the benefits of the fledgling system, which has been introduced as part of the wider £1bn modernisation programme. The department says online filing has cut the proportion of forms containing errors from 40% to less than 1%, with 85% of people using the service reporting they are happy with it.

Justice minister Lucy Frazer said: ‘These online services are already making a difference to people who use the justice system. As we reach this milestone it’s encouraging to see people are reporting these services work well for them and are a better fit around their busy lives.'

Aside from divorce applications, more than 39,000 money claims have been made through the online service launched last March; 7,500 applications for probate have been made online since July, and 3,300 online PIP (personal independence payment) appeals have been submitted in six months, the announcement states.

During 2018, more than 81,000 online pleas have been made for low-level motoring offences through the Make a Plea service introduced in 2014, while 1,400 online pleas have been made for Transport for London fare evasion since April.

The Ministry of Justice pledges that by 2020, around 100 services will be available digitally, offering a quicker and easier route for many people.

The modernisation programme has faced several criticisms and obstacles in the last year, including questions over the resourcing of the online claims services, issues over the technology used for video hearings, and concerns about the speed and scope of reforms.

17 December 2018

Six months too long to finalise a divorce, barristers warn

The Ministry of Justice, which has just finished a consultation on reforming divorce, wants to test a minimum six-month wait to grant a decree absolute after the decree nisi has been granted, reports The Law Society Gazette.

The ministry says: 'We think this allows a sufficient period for most couples to consider the implications of divorce and reach agreement on practical arrangements, while not being so long a period of uncertainty that it would have a long-term effect on children.'

However, the Bar Council, in its consultation response, questions the need to extend the minimum period, which is currently six weeks and one day.

The bar says six months would be too long for couples who do not have children or who have straightforward financial affairs: 'It is not clear whether there is empirical or anecdotal evidence that the current period of 6 weeks and 1 day is too short a period of time and what the reasoning is for extending it to 6 months. The period is a minimum and a decree absolute will not be made until the court is satisfied that to make a decree absolute will not cause hardship and, in the case of a marriage with dependant children, that satisfactory arrangements have been made for the children.'

The bar says the proposal 'may not give sufficient weight to the serious consideration that spouses give to petitioning for divorce at the outset rather than in the period between nisi and absolute decrees'.

Elsewhere, the bar says the government's proposal to get rid of the requirement for a divorcing spouse to evidence one or more of five facts will address an inconsistency between marriages and civil partnerships.

The bar points out that adultery is a ground of divorce in marriage but not for civil partnerships because adultery is defined as requiring sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex: 'A spouse or civil partner having sexual intercourse with someone of the same sex is not technically adultery although in many cases it would lead to the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership.'

The ministry's consultation closed on Monday amid widespread calls for reform. The Law Society has told the government it should restore legal aid so that separating couples can receive early advice.

26 November 2018

Appeal court rules McLaren driver's prenuptial agreement is 'unfair'

The ex-wife of a McLaren racing driver could be entitled to a £5 million divorce settlement after an appeal court ruled that a 18-year old prenuptial deal was “unfair."

Anita Brack, 51, signed agreements in 2000 with Kenny Brack, 52, a test driver for McLaren, that left her with £500,000 when they separated in 2015. According to The Times, his wealth is estimated at £11.4 million, reports Family Law.

Mr Justice Francis told the High Court in 2016 that Mr Brack was “mean spirited” but honest. He suggested that Ms Brack take her case to Sweden, as both are Swedish nationals.

However, an appeal court ruled yesterday that a prenuptial deal was “unfair."

In a response to the ruling, Jay Patel, partner at Lincoln's Inn firm Hunters Solicitors, said that "the Court ultimately retains discretion as to what amounts to a fair settlement."

He added that "this is the reason why considerable care and skill is required in arriving at a figure which not only meets the reasonable financial needs of the financially weaker party but also allows them to receive a fair share of the overall assets."