Changes in the family system have meant that the issue of divorce petitions and financial remedy applications has been moved away from the county courts to 11 divorce units across England and Wales.
While private law children applications will continue to be issued by the family court in the area in which the child resides, these new units will now process divorce petitions, financial remedy applications and applications to vary financial remedy orders.
For divorces in London and the South East, this means they are now being issued by the divorce unit at Bury St Edmunds.
Implications for our clients
First, in cases where a divorce petition has been issued in the family court prior to the introduction of the divorce units, both the divorce and the financial remedy applications in these cases will continue to be dealt with by the family court where the divorce was issued.
For new applications, the process will remain the same except that the applications for Decree Nisi will be considered by legal advisers supervised by district judges, rather than by district judges themselves.
If a hearing is required in divorce or financial remedy proceedings, this can be listed a local hearing centre near where the parties live or at a central location if the parties live in different areas.
Where a financial application has been referred to a local hearing centre, the divorce unit will continue to process the divorce.
All family court venues that have district judges on site will continue to accept urgent petitions and applications and will retain the facility to issue.
However, the public counter at the family court in Guildford was closed in April this year except for urgent applications for which an appointment has to be booked by phone. There is a drop box at the court to leave correspondence, applications and hearing bundles.
Fees and closures consultation
The Ministry of Justice is consulting on increasing fees for various court proceedings. The fee payable to issue divorce proceedings look set to increase from £410 to £550 – an increase of 34 percent .
A government consultation has also recommended the closure of 91 courts and tribunals that are “unused or underused or …. unsuitable”. Locally the consultation covers the closure of the Family Court at Reigate.