Resolution and HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) have released information about current and future moves to central divorce centres.
Divorce centres will usually be the only points of entry across the single family court for the issuing of divorce petitions and financial remedy applications.
There are no changes in points of entry for public and private law children applications.
Some divorce centres are already fully or partly live. The transfer of work is being phased to the centres, and the current plan is that each of the divorce centres will be fully operational as follows:
NORTH-EAST - this will centralised to Durham, Bradford (and Harrogate)*, Doncaster - fully live with effect from November 2014
WALES - this will be centralised to Neath & Port Talbot, Newport (Gwent), Wrexham = fully live with effect from January 2015
NORTH-WEST - this will be centralised to Liverpool - fully live with effect from February 2015
MIDLANDS - this will be centralised to Nottingham, Stoke-on-Trent - fully live with effect from February 2015
SOUTH-WEST - this will be centralised to Southampton - fully live with effect from April 2015
LONDON & SOUTH EAST** - this will be centralised toBury St Edmunds fully live with effect from October 2015
* work from Harrogate is planned to transfer to Bradford in due course
** the plans for London and the South East remain in development
It is intended that the Central Family Court will remain a point of entry for financial remedy cases, and emergency or urgent divorce petitions.
Please note, the actual date from which to start sending petitions to the new centre may vary between courts.
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 your solicitor (or yourself if a Litigant in Person) should indicate where you request 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.
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.
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.