I am not sure whether I have yet fully embraced the digital age. When I was training as a Solicitor in 1996, and for many years after, as a qualified Solicitor, my local court office was open Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm. I could attend the court office counter and speak to a member of the team. For example, when applying for an emergency domestic abuse injunction, I would personally attend the court counter with my client, they would swear their affidavit and a court official would issue the court application whilst I waited. I would then physically take the court file up with me to go before the District Judge.
I built up a relationship with the local court staff so that if there were questions about court process, especially, as a Trainee Solicitor, I felt able to ask. I would leave the court file after being before the District Judge, for them to type up the Injunction Order. They would even telephone my secretary when it was typed up and ready to be collected. So after some reminiscing of the good old days, I'm going to look at where we are now.
There has been further streamlining and digitalisation of the court system. From 31 January 2023 any applications for a Financial Remedies Order, and documents for hearings: eg. position statements, Form E's, bundles, and statements have to be uploaded to the My HMCTS Online Portal. There is confusion about whether this applies to members of the public. The government website says this does not apply to members of the public. Whereas, the Family Law Journal Article says documents have to be sent to the local administrative hub to be uploaded to the portal.
I have a couple of client's who emailed documents to their local court and the court staff have said to them they have to upload the documents to the portal. The court staff seem as confused about this and what to do when someone is self representing. What is clear is that when someone is acting as a litigant in person they cannot sign into the HMCTS portal. There is a difference between a litigant in person applying for a divorce online and applying for a financial remedies order.
The system seems to be set up to make it difficult for litigants in person. If a person cannot send paper documents to the court, such as a court bundle, and have to create a fully compliant pdf court bundle to be uploaded to a portal, that they do not have access to, then what are they to do.
I telephoned the central regional Financial Remedies Centre for London, on their contact telephone number 0300 123 5577. Firstly, I was on hold for 55 minutes, then I was put through to the central helpline. It appears that all calls to the regional telephone numbers are now being transferred to the central helpline. The gentleman I spoke to had no idea about financial remedies and informed me that documents could be uploaded to the government gateway for divorce as that was in his training manual.
After an afternoon wasted on the telephone finding not one person could help me. So I decided to email the regional court and to post it on twitter . I await replies.
As soon as I have some, I will let you know. In the meantime, I suggest sharing the information on the gov website where it says "that members of the public can you can still apply online and on paper" and that "the online portal is only mandatory for legal professionals" Implications from this are that documents for hearings can still be sent to the court by paper and by email.
Good luck. Digital vs what now appears to be Vintage, what will you choose.