OXD worked with the Ministry of Attorney General to improve citizen access to justice with a new e-filing process for uncontested divorce. The digital Online Divorce Assistant Application was originally launched in 2017. This service helped citizens choose the right forms to fill out and reduce errors when they arrived at the Registry office. However, they still had to submit their paperwork in person.
For many people, this was complicated due to accessibility—an ongoing issue with justice services. There are 43 registries in the province, and they are only open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the issue further, making it even harder for people to access.
To help minimize accessibility issues, the next natural phase was to work with the British Columbia government to add an uncontested divorce e-filing service to their website. This comes as part of a continued strategy to digitize Supreme Court services, improving access to justice for British Columbians.
Reaching more citizens with remote usability testing
Restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown meant we couldn't conduct in-person user testing. But ultimately this constraint was an opportunity for innovation. Thanks to remote usability testing sessions, we were able to reach a broader, more representative pool of citizens than ever before.
We’re still learning
During the course of testing, some of our assumptions about citizens' capabilities—where they did and didn’t struggle—during the proposed e-filing process were challenged. For example, we were expecting people to ask how to upload their signed documents since most people don’t have scanners at home. We were surprised to find out that no one found this part challenging. They knew they could take a picture on their cell phone, email it to themselves, and then upload it to the website. Where people did get confused was around the actual signing of the documents—not knowing they still needed to take it to a Notary—and whether they still needed to do anything in person.
Continuing to improve access to justice
The addition of the uncontested divorce e-filing feature shows how thoughtful and iterative improvements to government services can help make difficult experiences feel a little less burdening for people. This new service means more accessible and efficient ways for citizens to file, while improving processing time for both citizens and justice staff.