is to be sent to the centres?
All divorce petitions should be sent by post to one of the centres unless there
is an urgent reason to seek to issue at the counter. The application process
will remain unchanged but all uncontested petitions will be prepared and made
ready for initial decree nisi consideration by a legal adviser based at the
centre. The legal advisers will be supervised by DJs on site, who will handle
any contested applications, annulments and judicial separation applications.
Legal advisers will not handle any financial remedy cases.
The centres are points of entry. Hearings can be elsewhere. Where a financial
remedy application will need a hearing you should indicate where your client
requests the hearing 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 Family Procedure Rules Committee will be considering changes to the D8
petition form and Form A financial remedy form so that your clients can
indicate where they would prefer hearings to take place, and why, if one is
required. If there is any dispute over the venue for hearings, this will be
dealt with in the usual way by a DJ at the divorce centre.
It is expected that the majority of financial remedy applications (i.e. those
that do not require a hearing – typically applications by consent) will be
handled by DJs on site at the divorce centres, though arrangements have been
put in place to share work with other hearing centres where necessary.
Each of the divorce centres will operate on the basis of a designated catchment
area, but petitions from outside of the catchment area will be accepted at
other centres if a reason is given. This will be kept under review until any
workload changes have been assessed and understood.
You can attend in person at one of the centres during counter opening hours to
issue a petition with or without a financial remedy application but it will go
into the ordinary queue unless urgent.
In time, civil partnership dissolution applications will also be required to be
sent to the same centres, but the timetable for this is not yet confirmed save
in relation to the North East where civil partnership dissolution applications
should be sent to Durham, Bradford or Doncaster.
There are no legal or other changes (no changes have been made or are currently
proposed to primary or secondary legislation) which affect the ability to issue
urgent petitions at local hearing venues, for example, where there is a
jurisdiction race, or other urgent applications.
All family court venues that have DJs on site, including the Central Family
Court, will continue to accept urgent petitions and applications, and will
retain the facility to issue. Resolution has asked to have input as to how this
will work in practice.
Resolution chair Jo Edwards explained:
"Resolution recently met with HMCTS to discuss
the new divorce centres as our members were telling us that, where centres were
already in operation, information available locally had been patchy.
Furthermore, members in areas where the centres are yet to open were anxious to
understand more about what was coming.
"It was a positive meeting and as a result we were able to get information
out to our members about what the changes mean and how they will affect them.
It's important now that HMCTS continue to listen to our members, so they
understand how the new centres are operating on the ground, and how they can
mitigate any negative impact.
"We understand the logic behind the changes. But our concern is this
latest development takes place against a background of a family justice system
that has seen relentless change over the past couple of years.
"It is vital that the operation of the new divorce centres does not
further restrict access to justice, which has already suffered so many
devastating blows in recent years."
For any feedback and if there are issues around communication of the changes in
your area, or if you have specific concerns about how these changes will impact
or are working on the ground Rachel Rogers, Head of Policy
at Resolution can be contacted.