A change for the better or more disruption for family lawyers?
Traditionally family lawyers sent divorce petitions to the Court closest to where the petitioner lives or where matrimonial property is located. However, from the 29 June 2015, family lawyers have been required to send all new divorce and financial remedy applications to the newly named “London and South East Divorce Centre” in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. The idea is that this court will be used to process the paperwork given that the majority of divorces are uncontested and do not require a court hearing.
Following the Family Justice Review, the Single Family Court was created, which is a single jurisdiction without the previous geographical boundaries which accompanied county courts. It was agreed between the Courts, the Ministry of Justice and the Family Division that uncontested divorces will be considered by legal advisers rather than Judges. The aim is to relieve Judges’ workloads and for the new divorce centre to turn work around within 48 hours. However, 4 months in and we are being told that there is a 10-14 working day backlog and in practice petitions are taking 2-3 weeks to be issued.
These changes were also brought about without first amending the existing Court forms. We are told that the Family Procedure Rules Committee will be considering changes to the D8 petition form and Form A financial remedy form to include a field where the preferred hearing venue can be requested, if one is required. If there is any dispute over the venue for hearings, this will be dealt with in the usual way by a District Judge at the divorce centre.
The good news is that urgent divorce and financial remedy applications, typically where there is a race for jurisdiction, can still be issued at our local courts providing there are District Judges on site. At least this avoids the 4 hour roundtrip to Bury St Edmunds!