Sunday, November 22, 2009

In OZ ~ Internet makes divorce process easier for Family Court

Article from: The Sunday Mail (Qld)

Dot Whittington

November 22, 2009 12:00am

MORE than 400 Australian couples have applied for divorce with the click of a mouse since e-divorce was introduced two months ago.

E-filing gives web access to cases before the Family Court of Australia, the Federal Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia – but while it makes paperwork easier, especially for those who don't want to engage a solicitor, government officials are quick to add that the e-filing system isn't encouraging divorce.

Family Law Courts chief executive officer Richard Foster said the aim was to improve access to justice, particularly for self-represented litigants who comprised 85 per cent of divorce applicants.

"It does not mean that people can get divorced online but provides an alternative way to file applications," he said. "The normal process of having the matter assessed and decided by a judicial officer and the normal legislative time-frames and requirements are still maintained."

As part of the process, online applicants are instructed to download, print and read a copy of a Marriages, Families and Separation brochure which includes information about the social and legal effects of separation.

Once an applicant registers on the portal, a case file is created which can then be accessed at any time. The portal also provides a how-to guide and a telephone back-up service.

But Australian Family Association spokesman John Morrissey said e-divorce made ending a marriage easier than quitting a mobile phone contract.

"Symbolically it makes divorce seem simpler and makes marriage seem more fragile," he said.

"It's bad news to us, with no counselling involved, no need to front a solicitor and get feedback and no attempt to save the marriage.

The Commonwealth Courts Portal was launched by Federal Attorney- General Robert McClelland in August last year, but until September 26, only allowed family law practitioners to e-file supplementary documents.

The new e-divorce doesn't include property settlement and other family court matters, but makes it quick and easy to divorce with only a $432 fee.

Leading social analyst David Chalke said the portal was the ultimate expression of the principle of no-fault divorce expressed in the Family Law Reform Act of 1977.

"I'm sure there will be the moralists who will say that it is making divorce too simple but marriage is a dying art, an endangered species," he said. "This won't cause people to rush out and get a divorce, it will just make it simpler, quicker and cheaper for those who have already decided."

He stressed the marriage decline was due to deteriorated relationships and not to simplified mechanics.

"I can't see anyone saying 'Oh I can get a divorce online, I'll just ask my wife if she's interested'," he said. "It makes it much more efficient for those who are going to do it anyway."

Mr Chalke said he applauded the Government for the initiative, which he said was long overdue and would simplify many of the formal bureaucratic processes.,23739,26381547-952,00.html

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