Courts Service to use online divorce pilot to develop digital family law service

The Courts Service will develop its new online divorce family law service following the online divorce pilot.

Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) have already started enabling people to issue divorce petitions online.

HMCTS divorce service manager Adam Lennon said, “Now that the application part of the divorce process is online we will, over the coming months make the rest of the process digital – including the response from the other spouse to the application and the final certificate of divorce – making the whole process simpler to understand and navigate.

“We are also currently working with legal professionals to develop an online application for them to use which will allow them to submit a petition on behalf of a client online.”

It is hoped that the same approach will be adopted in future to all family services.

Son goes to court to claim inheritance

A man has gone to court to claim the money his late mother left after her last boyfriend launched a claim for a share.


James Campbell, 35, said his late mother Sarah promised he would have everything when she died.


He also claims her will, drawn up 14 years before her death, handed most of her estate to him.

Mr Campbell faces a court fight with his mother’s last boyfriend, Andrew Banfield, 65, who launched a High Court claim to more than half of Mr Campbell’s inheritance.


Mr Banfield says he and Mrs Campbell lived as ‘husband and wife’ for more than 20 years before her death and says he requires a payout from her estate to buy his own home.


Speaking to the court Mr Campbell said, “She told me on several occasions that all she wanted me to do was to find a lovely woman, buy a house, settle down and have a family.


“It’s what my mother wanted. It was my father’s house and then my mum’s house and my mother left it to me.”


Mr Banfield claims to have moved into her home in 1993 and that they became engaged in 1999.


Mr Campbell, however, denies there was ever an engagement.


For Mr Campbell, barrister Elaine Palser said, “He and Mrs Campbell had an extremely close and loving relationship. It was her long-term desire that he inherit the property. This was his childhood home and he lived there – apart from a short stint away – until he moved into rented accommodation with his girlfriend in 2015, just before his mother’s unexpected death.


“Mrs Campbell wrote to her son before making the will saying how much she adored him and that her estate ‘is all yours.’ She told her friends the property was James’.”



Ms Palser argued that Mr Banfield is not entitled to anything from the estate aside from a £5,000 gift which Mrs Campbell left him in her will.


The hearing continues.

Woman who spent most of married life in Scotland divorces in England

The former wife of an aristocrat will be divorcing her ex-husband in English courts even though they spent almost all their married life in Scotland.


Charles Villiers, 55, has accused his ex-wife, Emma of ‘trying it on’ in the English courts as a cross-border divorce tourist.


Mr Villiers added that if she won her case, England would become ‘the maintenance capital of the United Kingdom’ and face an invasion of divorcees from other home nations.


In a ground-breaking decision, top judges in London ruled that Mrs Villiers is entitled to claim maintenance from her ex-husband in England even though their divorce is still on-going in Scotland.


Divorce proceedings were initially launched in Scotland in 2012 by Mr Villiers.


Mrs Villiers, however, brought her battle for £10,000 a month in maintenance to England.


In 2016, Mrs Justice Parker ruled that the English High Court had the power to help Mrs Villiers, because she was by then ‘habitually resident’ in England.


Mr Villiers argued that his ex-wife had effectively been ‘rewarded for moving from Scotland to England.’





Supreme Court to hear rare contested divorce case

The Supreme Court will decide whether a woman can divorce her husband even though he contested the move.

The case of Tini Owens, 67 and her husband Hugh, 78 has raised questions about whether there should be an overhaul of the divorce law in England and Wales.

Mrs Owens said her marriage had broken down irretrievably, alleging that her husband had behaved unreasonably and prioritised his work over home life. Mr Owens, however, contested the divorce, saying the couple still have a “few years” to enjoy together.

Lower courts have ruled that Mrs Owens had not proved she was entitled to a divorce decree.

Mrs Owens argued that their marriage is over and she filed a petition for divorce when they separated in 2015.

At present divorce decrees are granted in England and Wales after it has been proven that a marriage has broken down due to adultery, desertion or “unreasonable behaviour” or because the spouses both consent to the move and have lived apart for more than two years. If one party contests the petition, the couple need to have lived apart for more than five years for the divorce to be granted.


Ministry of Justice launches online divorce scheme nationwide this month

Following its online pilot scheme the Ministry of Justice has launched the scheme nationwide this month.

The latest initiative in the department’s £1bn modernisation programme enables divorcing couples across England and Wales to complete their applications on a website without going to court.

The language on the digital form has been simplified and also allows payments and evidence to be uploaded from home.

Over 1,000 petitions were issued through the system during its test phase, with 91% of users reporting that they were satisfied with the service, according to the MoJ.

Sir James Munby recently described online divorce as a “triumphant success” and “final proof positive that whatever people think, government can do IT (information technology)”.

Justice minister Lucy Frazer said, “Allowing divorce applications to be made online will help make sure we are best supporting people going through an often difficult and painful time. More people will have the option of moving from paper-based processes to online systems which will cut waste, speed up services which can be safely expedited, and better fit with modern life.”


Disinherited nephew faked uncle’s will

A man who was left out of his late uncle’s will has been accused of doctoring another version of the will, reinstating his claim and reducing that of other family members, a court has heard.

William Venning, 55, faces charges of conspiring to make a false instrument, conspiring to pervert the course of justice, fraud and converting criminal property.


Venning had originally been a beneficiary in his uncle Peter Ascott’s will. However, after Venning split from his wife, Ascott removed Venning from his will.

Sally Clarke, 57, and Stephen Martin, 52, are also accused of  conspiring to make a false instrument and conspiring to pervert the course of justice charges for allegedly signing the falsified will as witnesses.

Prosecuting barrister Jason Beal told the court,

“These three defendants all played a role in the forging a subsequent use of the will of Peter Ascott. Venning was disinherited by Peter Ascott and wanted to get it back. He did so by producing a will we say was a forgery, either signing it himself or getting somebody else to do it.”

Mr Beal added,

“Hedley Venning was married to Susan Venning for about 20 years but in 2010 Venning and his wife began to have marriage difficulties and separated, a separation which was far from amicable.

“They divorced in December 2011. Susan Venning and Mr Ascott were also very close and following the break-up Mr Ascott took the side of Mrs Venning and made it clear he disapproved of how Hedley had behaved.

“Peter Ascott was a man with strong religious and moral values and his relationship with Hedley Venning soured. As a result of the way he thought his nephew had behaved he decided to change the terms of his will.”


Mr Beal further said: “Sally Clarke and Stephen Martin said they’d been present when Peter Ascott signed the will.

“The third will was examined. It was mostly typed and had a few handwritten entries. One was said to be the signature of Peter Ascott but was not his signature. A handwriting expert examined it and said it showed a pictorial similarity but differed in fluency featuring a number of unexpected pen lifts.

“Hedley Venning used the opportunity to disinherit those he had fallen out with and also took ownership of a Honda Jazz motor car which he sold for £4,000.”

All three defendants deny the charges against them.

The trial continues.


Landlord “forced” tenant to live in dangerous property

A landlord has been found guilty of ‘forcing’ a tenant to live in a dangerous property which had electrical faults, no fire alarms and insecure windows.

Officials from Bassetlaw Council found nearly 20 areas of concern at Susan Elizabeth Jubb’s property, declaring it too dangerous to live in.

Jubb has been ordered to pay fines and costs totalling almost £6,500 after failing to comply with an improvement notice after an appearance at Mansfield County Court.

Jubb pleaded guilty and faces a fine of up to £2,666, as well as paying the council’s legal costs of £3,519.37 and a victim surcharge of £266, totalling £6,451.37.

Issues at the house include no fire alarms, fire damage to the rear of the building, no adequate fire escapes, concerns over the security of the property after the front door had been nailed shut, insecure windows, inadequate internal doors, electrical faults and loose cabling, missing floorboards, loose carpets on a steep staircase and concerns over the heating system and insulation of the property.

The property is now the subject of a prohibition order which means that Jubb cannot allow anyone to live there until all of the work has been completed to the satisfaction of housing officers.

Carer who guided dying millionaire’s will is stripped of her money

A carer who ‘guided the hand’ of her dying millionaire employer as he signed over almost half his £1million fortune to her family has been stripped of the money.


Donna Henderson is alleged to have helped retired banker Marcel Chu sign a will which handed her and her children half of his estate.


Chu had earlier made a will in 2008, dividing his estate between his immediate family and a close friend.


However, the ‘surprising’ deathbed will, dated May 9 2014, just two days before Chu died, left 40% of his wealth to Mrs Henderson and her children.


A handwriting expert concluded that the signature on the will was not Marcel’s and the judge ruled that the dying man lacked mental capacity when the document was signed.


High Court judge Nigel Price has now ruled the will invalid.


Henderson now faces £85,000 in legal costs.


Giving his ruling, Judge Price said: ‘The siblings’ case is that the 2014 will is invalid, or that the circumstances of its making were so suspicious that it cannot be regarded as valid…It may be that it is permissible for a testator to be helped in signing a document, but the scope of such assistance must be limited.


‘There is a distinction between leading and steadying the hand. The distinction is to be drawn when assistance goes so far as to lead in the formation of the letters.’


He added, ‘Although one might have expected a small, or even significant, legacy to be left to a carer, the wholesale change in the will in favour of Mrs Henderson is surprising in all the circumstances.


‘Marcel’s close family appear to have been kept out of the picture in relation to the writing of the new will and the time of the final illness.’


The judge concluded, ‘I have no hesitation in reaching the conclusion that the siblings are entitled to a decree in solemn form in favour of the 2008 will.’