Changes to the divorce process: Q & A

HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) has confirmed its plans for the handling of divorce work within the Family Court to Family Law Week.

It has produced a question and answer document to address the common concerns and queries that have been raised in relation to the implementation of dedicated divorce centres.

The centres will act as a single access point for issuing divorce petitions and financial remedy applications and it is hoped the more efficient system will reduce the risk of fraud.

The first centres were set up in the North East last November, with those covering Wales going live last month.

HMCTS has created 11 divorce centres within England and Wales, with the vast majority of uncontested decree nisi applications being considered by Legal Advisers (rather than district judges) at those centres.

It said the Crime and Courts Act 2013 enabled legal advisers to consider decree nisi applications and directions for trial across the family court.

HMCTS added that the divorce centres will be centres of expertise that will improve services, release efficiencies of scale and minimise the possibility of fraud, will free up judicial time for other work, and reduce processing delays and inconsistency.

A spokesman added: “Some of the centres are already fully or partly live. The transfer of divorce work is being phased in to the centres.

“The key change is that all divorce petitions and financial remedy applications should be sent by post to one of the centres rather than your local court, with the exception of urgent applications that require immediate issue.”

HMCTS added that the application process will remain unchanged but all uncontested petitions will be prepared and made ready for initial decree nisi consideration by a legal adviser based at the centre.

The legal advisers will be supervised by district judges on site, who will handle any contested applications, annulments and judicial separation applications. Legal advisers will not handle any financial remedy cases.

For the full Q & A document go to http://goo.gl/PDjeHr