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The online divorce application service is being tested piloted in three areas Reuters

Couples can now apply for a divorce online as part of a £1bn shake-up of the justice system. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said the new scheme is being tested at three sites before being rolled out to other centres over the upcoming months.

People looking for a divorce will be asked to fill out an online form that asks the reason for the marriage breakdown as part of plans to reduce paperwork and processing time at the MoJ.

Currently, couples must fill out paper forms when seeking a divorce and them to them to a court for consideration. The reasons for a marriage ending have to be set out and agreed before a decree nisi – a court order stating the date on which a marriage will end – can be granted.

A decree absolute, which legally ends the marriage, can then be issued six weeks afterwards.

A spokesperson for the HM Courts and Tribunals Service said: "We have a world-leading legal system and are investing over £1bn to reform and enhance our courts to deliver swifter justice.

"We have launched the first divorce application services online at three sites and will be extending the testing over the coming months. These measures will simplify the process for divorce applicants and help progress applications quickly."

There has already been a successful trial of the new digital system at East Midlands Divorce Centre in Nottingham for the past 10 months.

It is hoped the new system will make filing for a divorce easier as well as reducing costs. However, Harry Benson, of the Marriage Foundation think-tank, said divorce should be taken seriously and there is a risk that separations conducted online "could trivialise the process".

He added: "We should also remember that divorce is no longer the main driver of family break-up. Divorce rates are currently the lowest since the early 1970s, and it is the rate of break-up among unmarried families that should worry us."