​Automation of Divorce – The Next Stage?

​Automation of Divorce – The Next Stage?

Around the country all divorces are started now in eleven regional "Divorce Centres". For Norfolk the Divorce Centre is Bury St Edmunds. This system was set up two years ago partly as a cost cutting exercise but also to centralise the administration surrounding divorces. Moving a divorce from being a judicial decision to more of an administrative one. The next stage is now upon us. A pilot is being conducted in the South West Region Divorce Centre in Southampton. This is to separate the actual divorce from other aspects such as financial Proceedings arising from the divorce. Currently if there is a contest over finances the whole Divorce Proceedings are transferred to the local Court which for this area is usually Norwich. Her Majesty's Court and Tribunal Service say this causes delay for Court users and so is now proposing to "de-link" the two aspects. The actual divorce would remain in one of the special Divorce Centres whilst the local Court will deal independently with the related Court Proceedings surrounding finances.

As at present agreed settlements (Consent Applications) will still be dealt with entirely at Divorce Centres. However local practitioners are already finding difficulties with the Divorce Centre in that mistakes are being made by staff faced with huge volumes of divorces being started in this centralised approach. It is also interesting to see this more administrative approach to divorces being taken at a time when the senior Courts have recently been casting doubt as to whether details of unreasonable behaviour that are used to base a divorce upon should be investigated and assessed against a higher level of justification for a divorce to take place (eg the case of Tini Owens referred to in the March 2017 Family Law Update).

Also in the background remains the issue of whether there should be "no fault" divorce as advocated nationally by the association of family Solicitors called Resolution. The centralising and more administrative approach towards divorces suggests that a more non judicial and almost relaxed attitude is being taken towards divorces on the basis of the saving of costs so is this "no fault" divorce by the back door? With the Government currently having to struggle with the "Brexit divorce" it is very unlikely that time will be found to legislate further on "matrimonial divorce"!

We appreciate that no two families are the same, family issues are often sensitive and can be emotional and stressful for all those involved. To find out more or discuss your individual requirements in further detail, our dedicated Family Law solicitors can help. Contact us today on 01603 693500 or email us using 'Make an enquiry' form. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham, Brooke and Sheringham offices.