E-File Divorce May Be On The Horizon For Ontario

Filing a divorce application may soon be as easy as a click of the mouse. Less than a year after introducing 24-hour e-filing for small claims court forms and fees, the province is now turning its attention to accepting divorce filings through an online portal.

Ontario's Attorney General Yasir Naqvi talked about the possibility at a recent Law Society of Upper Canada event. The province is considering a variety of online services, but Naqvi cited electronic divorce filings as a top priority.

Benefits Expected To Trickle Down

Online filings could usher in a number of tangible benefits to both lawyers and consumers. Digital transmission is fast, cheap and convenient. Reduced paperwork and elimination of in-person applications at the family court office easily translate into greater efficiencies - and an ultimate bottom line in cost savings.

Caveats Of Instant Filing

Alongside the benefits, the technology could be accompanied by potential blind spots. As pointed out by one lawyer, an e-filing would trigger the start of the limitation period for separating parties to seek an equalization of net family property - a fact that the ordinary layperson may be unaware of.

Another possibility is denial of extended health insurance benefits under a spousal plan. Most policies exclude claims by a partner who is no longer considered the policyholder's spouse.

If the province's e-filing plans eventually come to fruition, the potential ramifications could pose a problem for do-it-yourself parties. Otherwise, digitalization appears to be welcome news for families navigating the justice system.

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