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Divorce centres: what do you need to know?

Date:22 JUN 2015
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Members of the judiciary and senior civil servants gave an update on changes to the divorce process at a meeting at Chancery Lane last week (18 June), organised by the Law Society’s Family Section.

The panel, chaired by Mena Ruparel , consultant solicitor, Shedden Family Law, managing director, Law CPD Solutions Ltd comprised:
  • Her Honour Judge Lynn Roberts, Circuit Judge with responsibility for the divorce centre for London and the South East;
  • John Miller, Central Family Court Project London and South East project lead, HMCTS;
  • Emma Petty, jurisdictional and operational support manager & Central Family Court project lead, HMCTS;
  • Paul Stewart, Central Family Court project lead, HMCTS;
  • Tony Roe, principal and family law arbitrator, Tony Roe Solicitors. 
His Honour Judge Martin O’Dwyer, head of the Financial Remedies Unit, Chair of London Region Resolution also made contributions to the discussion.

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:

'HMCTS have now provided a document,  "Changes to the divorce process in England & Wales: Q & A" . This is extremely useful and is required reading for all family law practitioners.

We now know a little more detail of the timing of transfer of the rest of divorce work to Bury St Edmunds. Work in my local area, the Thames Valley, including Oxford, Reading, Milton Keynes & Slough, will be transferred from the week commencing 29 June.

In the Thames Valley, HMCTS says that, from 29 June all divorce petitions and financial remedy applications should be sent by post to the divorce centre, Bury St Edmunds, with the exception of urgent applications that require issue at the counter. Local courts in the Thames Valley will continue to process applications issued prior to 29 June.

HMCTS adds that the Bury St Edmunds Divorce Centre is the point of entry once work is transferred there, as much has been already, for London and the South East. If a hearing is required this can be listed at a local hearing centre and court users will have the opportunity to indicate where the hearing should take place, for example, at the same court as any Children Act application, more locally to where the parties reside, or at a more central location when the parties live in completely different areas. The petition is likely to be amended by the end of September with a box added to indicate the petitioner’s preference of court if a hearing is necessary.

'Transfer of work from London was planned for June but is not likely to occur until the week commencing 20 July”, said Roe. 'The intention is that the Central Family Court will concentrate on local and complex matters. I understand that the criteria for complexity are being finalised imminently and will be made available soon.'
The Law Society is running a further  seminar on the centralisation of divorce courts, in Manchester.

A Court Users’ meeting will take place at the Central Family Court at 17.00 on Wednesday 24 June.
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