Breaking the link: Reform to Family Law system and the ‘administrative de-linking’ of divorce and money.
Broadly speaking, it is true and fair to say that divorce is a largely administrative process.
The typical divorce is uncontested and involves a back and forth of form filling (primarily on the part of the petitioning party), first to achieve an interim divorce order (decree nisi) and latterly the final divorce (decree absolute). Typically, parties will wait to apply for decree absolute until a fair financial resolution has been achieved. Whilst careful drafting and legal input is important throughout, it is fair to say it is largely a paper process. As such, in 2015, the administration of divorces was consolidated to localised specialist courts acting as ‘divorce centres’ (e.g., for the North West, this is Liverpool Family Court.)
Addressing the parties’ finances, once negotiations had taken place through solicitors or mediation etc. and come to a successful conclusion, a consent order would then be drafted up and sent to court for their approval, thereby making the agreement binding. This, too, was dealt with by the same regional specialist court. (Thereby administratively linking divorce to finances).
Strengthening that link was that, if a contested financial application is made (i.e. if one party refers financial matters to court proceedings), both the divorce proceedings and the newly issued financial proceedings would be transferred to a more convenient, local court to the parties’ area.
Now, the President considers, is the time to break that link.
As of today (19 June 2017), when a contested financial application is made (i.e. not a consent order), the financial application would be dealt with at a local court, but the divorce proceedings will stay put. Essentially, allowing the divorce expert centres to deal with divorces expertly.
The idea is to remove the burden on the Family Court system as a whole and reducing delays caused by transferring files from court to court. Indeed, in a pilot scheme run via the South West regional divorce centre – Southampton – claims to have reduced delays by two weeks.
Whether matters will be streamlined as efficiently throughout the country remains to be seen.
Should you need any assistance in relation to divorce or finances, please do not hesitate to contact us and our team of specialist family lawyers by email at Joe.Ailion@family-law.co.uk or telephone:
Wilmslow 01625 544650
Knutsford 01565 648228
London 0207 9474219