Unified Single Family Court
The introduction of the Unified Single Family Court on 22/4/14 as a result of the implementation of The Children and Families Act 2014 brought together the Magistrates (Family Proceedings) Court, County Court and High Courts into a single unified ‘Family Court’. In doing so it removed historic jurisdictional boundaries that operated to determine which court proceedings were issued from, usually based on address or postcode for the party starting the proceedings.
The ‘Divorce Centres’ for this region (North East) are Doncaster (South Yorkshire and Humber), Durham (Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland) and Bradford (North and West Yorkshire). They are described by Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunals Service as the ‘single point of entry for all divorce and financial remedy applications’ in those areas.
A benefit to having the administration centralised in a smaller number of Court ‘divorce centres’ was highlighted in the bizarre case reported in September where a total of 180 divorce petitions for Italian couples were set aside by Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division. In that case, it came to light that each of the petitions had been issued fraudulently with Petitioners living in Italy using only 2 different Post Office box addresses, in 137 different County Courts across England and Wales. By centralising the processing of divorce proceedings it is hoped to combat fraud.
In theory, the process of simplification of the court system is commendable. The administration should be reduced and the Courts and Judiciary have more time to deal with the more complex ‘high priority’ cases leaving the majority of the divorce proceedings to be dealt with by court staff and legal advisers. But will it?
The changes, certainly in the North Yorkshire area, have led to something more complicated. It is also questionable as to whether the process has in fact been streamlined. It does somewhat depend upon what type of proceedings you want to start.
From 22/4/14 to issue Children Act proceedings in North Yorkshire area you must use York County Court. But if issuing a Divorce – even if the case concerns the same parties as in the children proceedings – you must must use Harrogate County Court. However, from January 2015, you must instead then send Divorce proceedings to Bradford County Court not Harrogate because the administration is being moved again.
If you have a financial application to make, as from January 2015 that too must be started in Bradford, but you can ask the Court at Bradford for the Court hearings to be conducted at York County Court.
However, if you have an emergency injunction application, say for a non-molestation or occupation order, you can start those proceedings by issuing out of York County Court, regardless of whether there are any or no other proceedings in existence between the parties.
Everybody got that?
What it does mean is that anyone considering issuing family proceedings should take specialist advice from a family lawyer, and here at Paradigm Family Law we have the expertise and experience to deal with all eventualities that might arise from separation or divorce. James and Frank are here to help. They are flexible as to time and place for appointments, and Paradigm Family Law’s FIXED FEES mean that wherever the case may be, you pay the same amount as is agreed from Day 1 and tailored to your particular circumstances.
If you think you need help or would just like to talk through your options with James or Frank please call 0845 6020422 or email [email protected] to arrange a free consultation and discuss a FIXED FEE.