If you can make your divorce application online – DO IT!

In 2016 11 regional divorce centres were created across England and Wales in an effort to try and centralise divorce cases. The idea was to streamline the process and ensure that there was no north/south divide across the UK. Previously some courts were inundated with applications whilst others sat idle. The idea of these centres was not popular at the time and is now even less so given the level of delay people are experiencing. Bury St Edmunds Divorce Centre is one of the largest, designed to be operated by at least 100 staff and cover all of the divorce cases for the East of England, the South-East of England and London. Typically the centre handles over 40,000 cases a year. The centre has never been fully staffed and frustratingly there is no ability to telephone the centre and speak to someone physically in the building.

The government and Ministry of Justice are pushing for anyone who needs to access family justice to submit applications online, where there are quicker processing times for applications as more money is invested in online platforms and technology. But for those who already have existing proceedings within Bury St Edmunds Divorce Centre, or have no choice but to issue a paper application to the centre, they are in for some depressing waiting times.

As of 1 July 2020 Bury St Edmunds Divorce Centre had the following processing times/dates for all work being undertaken by the centre staff:

 Divorce Suit

 Admin are currently processing petitions received on 12/05/2020

Admin are currently processing help with fees applications received on 22/06/2020

Admin are currently processing acknowledgements of service received on 01/04/2020

Admin are currently processing applications for decree nisi received on 15/06/2020

Legal adviser consideration of decree nisi applications from date of receipt are taking 24 weeks

DJ approved/refused orders from date of receipt, made by a District Judge are taking 22 weeks

Admin are currently processing Decree Absolutes received on 29/06/2020

 Financial Applications

Admin are currently Processing URGENT Orders considered by a District Judge 22/06/2020

Admin are currently processing Form A’s received on 12/05/2020

DJ consideration of Consent Orders from date of receipt are taking 20 weeks

DJ consideration of previously refused orders, from date of receipt are taking 7 weeks

The most shocking timeframe of all is if correspondence or emails on a particular casefile do not fall into one of the areas above. In that case admin staff are currently processing correspondence including emails on 23/01/2020. Yes that is right January!!

The MOJ has acknowledged there is a problem at this particular centre and are looking to draft in as many people as possible, subject to COVID-19 compliance, to try and clear the backlog. People may blame COVID but the fact is that the pandemic has only compounded the problem, not created it.

For anyone who is in existing proceedings or is looking to start a divorce application, the family solicitors at Barker Gotelee can help navigate the process and find the most straightforward way possible. Call for a no obligation consultation on 01473 617 317.

Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Ipswich Solicitors.

Suffolk Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email bg@barkergotelee.co.uk