CourtNav to help litigants nationwide after successful pilot
Freshfields pro bono expert delighted to see tool reach wider CAB network
A free online tool to help litigants in person (LIPs) complete a divorce petition is to be used in Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) across England from April.
CourtNav has been used successfully in the Royal Courts of Justice CAB (RCJ Advice), which developed the tool in partnership with Magic Circle firm Freshfields.
The system will be accessible to an applicant after a CAB adviser has made an initial assessment of their needs and will take them through simple steps to complete their divorce petition.
The process allows for members of the public to ask a lawyer questions prior to submission. The practitioner then checks the information is correct before submitted the petition to the court, thus reducing both stress on the applicant and the court's workload.
Statistics from the HM Courts and Tribunals Service showed that in a single month, the divorce hub for London and the south-east, Bury St Edmunds, returned almost a fifth of divorce petitions.
Since the introduction of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) 2013, an increasing number of people have been unable to access legal representation in family cases.
Of the many struggles LIPs face, the fee to process a divorce rose from £410 to £550 earlier this month, despite the actual administrative cost totalling just £270.
Reflecting on CourtNav's success, Paul Yates, head of London pro bono at Freshfields, said: 'We're pleased to have partnered with RCJ Advice in developing the award-winning tool, CourtNav. RCJ Advice has unparalleled experience of providing legal advice to litigants in person, through its face-to-face service which we (and many other firms) have supported for many years.
'The successful pilot of the initial module, dealing with divorce and civil partnership dissolution, is shown by the success rates: 100 per cent of users have filed their petition using the tool without problems. We're delighted that, building on this successful pilot, RCJ Advice has been able to offer access to CourtNav to a much larger cohort through the wider CAB network.'