The President of the Family Division and the Deputy Chief Executive of the HM Courts and Tribunal Services have written to the judiciary about the way cases are being handled.
They are praising a standardised service but were also announcing a trial aimed at changing the way financial applications are dealt with under the current system. The trial will see contested financial proceedings able to be issued at the relevant local court, rather than having to issue at one of the 11 specialist divorce centres and then have the proceedings transferred.
I've experienced the delays under the current system and this change makes a lot of sense in terms of hopefully speeding up this element of the process.
However, this change will not affect the current procedure for financial settlements agreed without court proceedings. These still need to be recorded in a document known as a consent order and sent to the specialist divorce centre for a judge to approve so that they become binding.
It is still taking several months to get the divorce proceedings to the relevant stage to be able to send in the consent order to the specialist centre and to have the order approved.
I have helped several clients recently to get the approved order as quickly as possible, for example by ensuring that we have the terms and final document agreed with their spouse/civil partner ahead of time so that it is ready to be filed at court at the earliest opportunity.
This is particularly important where their settlement involves time pressures, such as the completion of the sale of a property or sharing of a pension where the holder is close to retirement.
For more information about the divorce process and financial settlements generally, please see our guide at http://www.freeths.co.uk/how-to-get-a-divorce
The centralisation of divorce and dissolution proceedings into the 11 specialist divorce centres in 2015 has seen a significant improvement in the way that these cases are handled. While there have been some issues as this change has bedded in, on the whole court users have seen a much improved and standardised service. Sir James Munby (President of the Family Division) and Kevin Sadler (Deputy Chief Executive and Courts and Tribunals Development Director - HM Courts & Tribunals Service) have expressed their gratitude for all the hard work by the judiciary, legal advisors and HMCTS administrative staff for making these changes such a success.However, it has shone a spotlight on the way in which related financial applications are dealt with and it is clear that this process can and should be improved.