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13 April 2015

Changes to the divorce process: 11 new divorce centres set up

HM Courts & Tribunals Service has taken the decision to create 11 divorce centres within England and Wales, with the vast majority of uncontested decree nisi applications being considered by Legal Advisers (rather than district judges) at those centres.

They state that the reason for the change is that following the Family Justice Review the single Family Court was created, which is a single jurisdiction without the previous geographical boundaries of county courts. Subsequently the Crime and Courts Act 2013 enabled legal advisers to consider decree nisi applications and directions for trial across the family court.

The following information is taken from a Q & A document produced by HMCTS:

In light of these changes HM Courts & Tribunals Service agreed plans with the Ministry of Justice and with the President of the Family Division for uncontested decree nisi applications to be considered by legal advisers at designated divorce centre locations in England and Wales.

Legal advisers will therefore deal with the majority of routine decree nisi applications, which will free up judicial time for other work, and reduce processing delays and inconsistency.

The divorce centres will be centres of expertise that will improve services, release efficiencies of scale and minimise the possibility of fraud.

There will be centres within each region as follows:

  • North East: there will be centres at Durham, Doncaster, Harrogate* and Bradford 
  • North West: there will be one centre at Liverpool 
  • Wales: there will be centres at Neath, Newport and Wrexham 
  • Midlands: there will be centres at Nottingham and Stoke 
  • South West: there will be one centre at Southampton 
  • London and South East: there will be one centre at Bury St Edmunds 

* Work from Harrogate will transfer to Bradford in due course April 2015 

Some divorce centres are already fully or partly live. The transfer of divorce work is being phased in to the centres, and the current plan is that each of the divorce centres will be fully operational as follows:

  • North East: November 2014 
  • North West: February 2015 
  • Wales: January 2015 
  • Midlands: February to April 2015 
  • South West: February to April 2015 
  • London and South East: April to October 2015

Further information can be found on the HMCTS Q & A document here.