Online Divorce in Northern Ireland
A recent BBC report has shown that there is a consultation going on in Northern Ireland about a proposal to deal with compensation claims of less than £25,000 on-line, and, if that goes well, divorces on-line. Apparently, the online dispute resolution system is currently being used for some legal cases in Holland and British Columbia in Canada. Both parties sign up online for a form of arbitration and can access assistance from professional mediators. In complex cases, a judge can become involved and it can proceed to court if there is no agreement. There is a fee for each stage.
The chairman of the justice committee at Stormont, the DUP MLA Alastair Ross, wants to see it introduced in Northern Ireland. He said:
"I think it absolutely could be rolled out here....The Netherlands have led the way in showing how it can work and there is no reason why a small place like Northern Ireland can't also look at having our own system that does something likewise."
Legal professionals have raised concerns that this may not be appropriate in cases involving domestic violence or child abuse. Sarah Ramsey, chair of the Family Bar Association, which represents lawyers who work in family courts, advocates that strong safeguards would have to be put in place. She said:
"I think there should be some triggers where if allegations are made of abuse taking place that the courts should be there to oversee and make sure that the interests of the children and vulnerable parties are protected".
We shall have to see whether this happens in Northern Ireland and whether that has any impact here.