A new initiative could lead to the speeding up of the divorce process, by splitting divorce proceedings from financial proceedings.
Until recently, if a financial application was contested by one of the divorcing parties, the entire divorce was stalled whilst all proceedings waited their turn to go through the local divorce court.
However, a recent pilot, which was trialled in the South West Regional Divorce Centre in Southampton, “de-linked” the two aspects of the divorce process, so that the main divorce proceedings remained in the specialist centre, whilst staff and judiciary at the local hearing centres worked independently on the contested financial proceedings.
The pilot has been hailed as a success, having achieved its aim of putting in place a more streamlined process, reducing by up to two weeks the delays experienced by court users as files are transferred between courts.
Family division president Sir James Munby has said the time has now come for a ‘formal, legal de-linking’ of divorce and money, started and pursued by separate processes. However, he acknowledged the timeline for ancillary relief would be determined by the progress of the divorce.
The administrative de-linking was piloted at the south west regional divorce centre in Southampton last month.
Family law group Resolution, which encourages good practice in divorce matters, welcomed the initiative saying: “Any steps that reduce delay and make the administration of family proceedings more efficient must be encouraged. This is just one example of how quite simple changes can make a difference in practice.”
Surjit Verdi, an Associate Solicitor and family law expert with Palmers, explained: “Currently, our divorce petitions are handled by our local specialist divorce centre in Bury St Edmunds.
“If there are contested finances to be dealt with arising from the divorce, the application is submitted to the divorce centre in the first instance. This is then referred to a District Judge who would transfer the proceedings to a court local to the parties. The local court would then deal with the administrative aspects of issuing the application and listing the matter for a hearing.
“This scheme would mean that solicitors would bypass sending the application to the specialist divorce centre first and instead deliver the documents straight to the local court, which would save a significant amount of time.
“Any initiative which helps to minimise red tape and delays for the benefit of our clients is certainly a move in the right direction and I very much hope that the pilot is rolled out nationally in the near future.”
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