Changes to the Divorce Process
Changes to the Divorce process following the Family Justice Review are continuing to be rolled out across England and Wales. The single Family Court that was created following the Family Justice review does not have the geographical boundaries of the former County Court. It is a single jurisdiction. This has resulted in HM Court and Tribunal Service taking the decision to create eleven divorce centres within England and Wales. Some Divorce Centres are already fully operational and the aim is for all to be so by October 2015.
There will be one Divorce Centre for London and South East England at Bury St Edmunds. This centre will take all undefended divorce and financial remedy work for this area from 17th April 2015. If a hearing is required, it will be listed at a local court hearing centre and there will be an opportunity to indicate where the hearing should take place. Whilst there are no longer geographical boundaries, the local authority boundaries will assist HMCTS to manage the distribution of work. In Children Act cases the child’s place of residence continues to determine the designated family Court in which the case should be heard.
All uncontested decree nisi applications will be considered by legal advisers at the regional centres, rather than Judges, with a view to freeing up judicial time for other work with the aim of reducing processing delays and inconsistency. All applications are required to be sent by post to the Divorce Centre with the exception of urgent applications that require issue at the counter. HMCTS has issued a Q & A document to address common concerns.
There are currently no legal changes to prevent the ability to issue urgent petitions, for example where there is a jurisdiction race. All family Court venues that have District Judges on site, including the Central Family Court, will continue to accept urgent petitions and applications, and will retain the facility to issue.
Article by Jackie Gifford, Chartered Legal Executive and Family Mediator.
The information contained in this article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be legal advice. Professional advice should always be taken on the application of the law in any particular situation.