The beginning of July heralds a new beginning for divorce in England and Wales when it will be possible for couples to head to a Divorce Centre and end their marriage there and then. These centres have been championed by the current government who, in an attempt to cut the cost of the court service in the UK, will divert nearly all of the 120,000 divorces that are granted each year in England and Wales away from court.
From July, there will be 11 centres nationwide, processing divorces from England and Wales, as the legal process is different in Scotland. The biggest of these centres will be in Bury St Edmunds, handling divorces from London and the South East.
These regional offices will be processing divorces in a similar way to how a production line works, and instead of a judge reviewing the paperwork, an administrator will. It is not clear currently whether the cost of a divorce will fall as a result of these ground-breaking changes. Currently, you pay £410 to get divorced and it takes around eight months from start to finish. However, the time it takes to get a divorce looks set to fall dramatically, with paperwork being processed on the day of receipt or when there are big backlogs, within 48 hours.
This process only applies to non-contested divorces, where both parties agree to it and many people in the legal profession feel that this process is standardised enough to work effectively through these administration centres.
However, there are others that see the move to an admin based function as belittling the divorce process and devaluing it to something administrative such as applying for a passport or driving licence and in addition, diminishing marriage in our society.
In particular, Ann Widdecombe, former Conservative MP has been very vocal in her disapproval of these new divorce centres, commenting that “the idea is most unwelcome” and that “the state should show stronger signals in support of marriage”.
This new admin process does not change the grounds for divorce, nor removes any other part of the process, it just takes all divorces where both parties agree out of the court function.
It remains to be seen how this process works in practice and whether the governments processing targets can be met.
This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitors before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.
0207 183 2898