Divorce Centre Delays

Prior to 2015 divorce proceedings were dealt with either by the Central Family Court or those local County Courts which had divorce jurisdiction. In 2015 the system was changed so that most divorces are now dealt with by one of 11 regional divorce centres. The main centre for London and the South East is Bury St Edmunds Divorce Centre.

The delays at the Bury St Edmunds Divorce Centre have been a cause of concern for parties to divorce proceedings and their solicitors for several years and a report in the Law Society Gazette this week suggests that the problem may be getting worse.

The Gazette made a freedom of information request which disclosed that it took on average 373 days from the issue of the divorce petition to decree absolute in 2018. Whilst some of the delay possibly arises from couples wanting to resolve property and financial issues prior to applying for their decree absolute, there is still clearly a problem with the length of time it is taking to conclude many divorces. The average time from the issue of the petition to the decree nisi (which cannot be explained by delay resulting from the resolution of property and financial issues) increased 17% on the previous year to 195 days.

The Courts and Tribunals Service has responded by stating that they have increased staffing levels as a result of which performance has improved.

Our Head of Family Law, Joanna Toloczko comments as follows:-

“Divorce is an extremely distressing and stressful experience for our clients and it is unacceptable that excessive court delays are adding to their anxiety. It is also very frustrating for solicitors who face a constant battle trying to get through to the divorce centre on the phone to obtain news about their clients’ cases. Hopefully, things will improve if staffing levels increase”.

For further advice and assistance in connection with family law matters please contact Joanna Toloczko at jtoloczko@meaby.co.uk or on 020 3861 5155.