Impact Of The New Divorce Centres
Major changes are under way in the processing of uncontested divorces in England and Wales.
All divorce petitions will go to one of 11 divorce centres across the country.
For the South West (including Dorset), that means a divorce centre in Southampton. For the South East (including the New Forest),the centre is in Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk.
The Crime and Courts Act 2013 has enabled Legal Advisers to deal with the vast majority of uncontested decree nisi applications at the centres. Previously the applications would have been dealt with by District Judges.
These Legal Advisers (usually solicitors) will be supervised by the District Judges on site who will continue to deal with any contested applications, annulments and judicial separation applications.
The general application process remains the same but the Legal Advisers will prepare the paperwork ready for the decree nisi pronouncement.
However, any other urgent applications – such as children and financial applications – will still go to the local family court (and cases can still be transferred from the centres to the local courts if they suddenly become more contentious).
Any other routine applications can also be sent to the centres with a written request for a transfer to the local court (for example, the court closest to where the parties reside).
If there is any dispute by the parties over the venue for hearings, this will be dealt with in the usual way by a District Judge at the centre.
In theory, the object of the exercise is to speed up the issue of the divorce petitions and their progress at the centres to make the process more efficient.
The plan is also to free up busy District Judges to enable them to deal with other more complex work.
So far so good – but will it really make for a faster, less bureaucratic divorce process? At this stage, our divorce lawyers across the Bournemouth and Poole area have their doubts.
We are still waiting for a response in relation to confirmation of the issue of a divorce petition that we sent to the new centre at Southampton. It has taken longer to deal with than if it had been sent to the local court in the usual way.
One accepts that there will always be teething troubles for any new system – but if they continue and become protracted delays then little will have been accomplished.
Whatever happens, it illustrates the need to have a sympathetic and tenacious family lawyer on your side.
For expert advice on separation and divorce, contact Coles Miller Senior Chartered Legal Executive Lindsey Arnold, 01202 673011.