There’s been a bit of a change in the way that divorce cases are handled across the country. Traditionally, you’d file your divorce petition and other applications with your local county court, but now, in an effort to streamline the process, you’ll now have to go to your ‘regional centre’. For Winchester residents, that will be Southampton.
This is just the first step in the administrative process, the first port of call. Uncontested divorces could progress through to consideration for decree nisi by the centre’s legal advisors. Where there’s a case that involves straightforward, uncontested financial remedy proceedings – agreed consent orders – the divorce centres will be able to process these single-handedly. If a hearing is needed, they will be transferred to a more convenient court. If the case is complex and involves substantial assets, there’s always a possibility that proceedings will be transferred to either the High Court or Central Family Court in London.
This nationwide development might mean a bit of inconvenience in some quarters. There will be 11 divorce centres in total, and each one will potentially be dealing with petitions from a very large catchment area. The centre for London and the South East, for example, will be in Bury St Edmunds. But, seeing as the idea is for these centres only to deal with the most simple, straightforward cases where nothing is contested, it will quite possibly ease the pressure on the courts. There’s also an expectation that, as the staff at these centres will be processing such a high volume of petitions, they’ll be very well trained and therefore efficient.
There’s good news for Hampshire residents too. If you’re based down in Winchester or have a second home there and are considering divorce, it’s worth bearing this practical shift in mind. You may find you benefit from expert advice from a law firm at the cutting edge, with significant experience of dealing with highly complicated divorce proceedings and financial matters. Many of our cases run through the High Court and the Central Family Court, but our ability to see clients in our Winchester office means that we can set you in good stead locally from the beginning. If your case needs to be transferred, you’ve got the benefit of local knowledge coupled with City savvy.
The South West centre is now active. The rest of the country is predicted to move to the centralised system by October 2015. As this is all a work in progress, it may be that all the changes will be subject to review in the future. We’ll have to watch this space to see how it all goes.