London & South East Divorce Centre
Further to Paradigm Family Law‘s previous post on the new Divorce procedures (here) a further meeting took place on 18 June at Chancery Lane, organised by the Law Society’s Family Section, and attended by members of the judiciary and senior civil servants. An update was given on the new Divorce Centre process for those issuing in the London and South East areas, all of which are to be processed out of Bury St. Edmonds. We have taken the liberty of providing a copy of the handout provided by HMCTS to attendees which is set out below.
A Court Users’ meeting will take place at the Central Family Court at 17.00 on Wednesday 24 June and when we have details we will provide a further update.
London and South East Divorce Centre – Information
Bury St Edmunds Divorce Centre, will issue broadly 40,000 divorce petitions per year. The guiding principle is that only cases that require a hearing will be transferred to the parties’ preferred court.
Our aim is for all work to be processed on the day of receipt or within 48 hours at the latest. This is a challenging ideal but is achievable once the Centre is fully staffed and operational. We therefore anticipate achieving this service level from October 2015.
Legal Advisers will work at the Centre and will be responsible for deciding if petitions should be listed for pronouncement or for giving directions on the way forward if they consider that pronouncement is not appropriate at that time. District Judges will give directions in contested cases and will consider consented financial remedy applications. District Judges are also currently responsible for considering service related applications (i.e. applications for bailiff service, deemed service or to dispense with service).
The Centre will issue all divorce petitions with the exception of urgent matters, which can still be issued from local courts. Most undefended divorce work will be retained at the Centre. Any defended proceedings or undefended cases requiring a hearing will be transferred to the parties’ preferred court. Cases where parties wish to attend pronouncement to dispute costs or to attend for any other reason will be transferred to their preferred court for pronouncement.
Provision has been made for the current divorce courts to issue urgent petitions, and national guidance is being developed that will define “urgent” work. Obvious examples are section 37 related cases and those cases where it is imperative that jurisdiction is established speedily (i.e. divorce race). There will be other matters that parties consider to be urgent, and the Family Procedure Rules Committee are considering amendments to the Petition application form so that urgency (and a preferred location for any hearings) can be expressed in writing. Local courts will continue to process work that Applicants consider to be urgent in the meantime.
Financial Remedy Applications
District Judges sitting at the Divorce Centre will review all consented financial remedy applications. They will approve many applications (possibly subject to clarification of the agreement) and will transfer any that they consider require further consideration by judges at courts local to the parties or applications that they consider require an attendance.
The Divorce Centre will issue applications, serve documents and fix directions appointments at the Applicant’s preferred court.
The Central Family Court
Provision is being made for complex financial matters to be issued directly with the Central Family Court, where special arrangements are being put in place, meaning that parties will have the option of issuing appropriate cases directly with the court, subject to certifying complexity.
Movement of Work to the Divorce Centre
Work is being transferred from the 45 divorce courts in London and the South East to the Divorce Centre on a phased basis. By October 2015 all undefended Divorce work, with the exception of urgent matters will be processed through the Divorce Centre.
As of 25 May, the work of 28 South East courts has transferred to the Divorce Centre, these courts are:
Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire
Cambridgeshire & Essex
Norfolk & Suffolk
Surrey & Sussex
Communications are being issued to parties broadly two-weeks prior to work transferring. This notice period is designed to avoid spikes in workload i.e. to ensure a smooth flow of work into the Divorce Centre. We currently anticipate that the Divorce Centre will start to process work from the London courts from July.
Errors in Petitions. The movement of work from courts to Divorce Centres has highlighted significant issues with errors in the completion of applications for divorce petitions; nationally, broadly 40% of petitions have to be returned for correction. Adoption of the attached checklist is being considered, practitioners may find it helpful to use it as a guide in the meantime.
Cases Issued in County Courts. The Divorce Centre is receiving process in cases that were issued before work from courts transferred. Practitioners should send any process and correspondence to the court that issued the petition in the first instance.
Divorce Centre Contact Information
Bury St Edmunds Divorce Centre
2nd Floor, Triton House
St Andrew’s Street North
Bury St Edmunds
Bury St Edmunds Divorce Centre
DX 97640 Bury St Edmunds
email: [email protected]
Telephone: 0344 892 4000
Be sure to keep checking our Library pages for any further updates, and information on the new Divorce Process and Divorce Centres which we will publish when it is made available.