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Meta Title :Divorce centres: the South East – Bury your marriage?
Meta Keywords :family law, divorce centres, Tony Roe, Bury St Edmunds Divorce Centre
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May 27, 2015, 05:48 AM
Article ID :109359
‘How will the new Bury St Edmunds Divorce Centre affect
family law practice in the South East?’ That was the title of
a question and answer session on the new divorce centre.
Her Honour Judge Lynn Roberts (Circuit Judge
with responsibility for the divorce centre for London and the South East) and
John Miller, HMCTS project leader, were panel members along with His Honour
Judge Martin O’Dwyer, head of the Financial Remedies Unit. Chair of London
Region Resolution, Margaret Heathcote presided over the session, held at
Charles Russell Speechlys on 26 May.
Her Honour Judge Roberts
recognised that the creation of the new hub at Bury St Edmunds, (BSE for
short?) had created a certain amount of anxiety amongst practitioners. She
mentioned that the hub had been termed, “Bury your marriage” by some.
Family law solicitor and arbitrator, Tony Roe, who made a series of FoI
requests of the HMCTS, and whose research broke the news that Bury St Edmunds
would be the single divorce centre for the London & the South East said:
the first time HMCTS has begun to engage in a face-to-face dialogue with family
law solicitors generally. This is to be welcomed. The scale of the task should
not be underestimated. HMCTS says that the new hub at Bury St Edmunds will
eventually deal with just over 40% of work in England & Wales and accepts
that this will be ambitious.
HMCTS hopes for economies of scale, not to
mention a better service. Indeed, the Service said that there was a backlog of
600 petitions in Brighton and Guildford going back three months and it was
decided to transfer the work of those courts to Bury St Edmunds now.
Transfer of work from London was planned for
June but is not likely to occur until July.
HMCTS has quoted an alarming 40% of
petitions which have to be returned for correction to solicitors’ firms owing
to errors in drafting or procedure, for example, failure to enclose issue fees,
lack of signature or missing/incorrect details. It will pay practitioners to
check and have someone else double check, all petitions they plan to file.
What is clear is that the new legal
advisers, who will adopt some of the functions previously carried out by
district judges, must not form a judgment on the facts relied on within petitions.
HMCTS assures us that family law solicitors will not be turned away from any
family court if they have an urgent petition or application. It says that the
solicitor submitting the need for urgency will be trusted. Let’s hope that this
happens, especially where there is little or no counter service available.
Below is set out the handout provided to attendees at the event by
and South East Divorce Centre – Information
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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
The Central Family Court
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
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
As of 25 May, the
work of 28 South East courts has transferred to the Divorce Centre, these
Norfolk & Suffolk
Surrey & Sussex
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
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