Earlier this year an administrative change was introduced to the divorce process in England and Wales. Rather than sending divorce petitions to the local county court, all divorces are now dealt with by one of eleven designated divorce centres. Working in Oxford, our centre is Bury St Edmunds.
Unfortunately, our new divorce centre appears to be having some teething problems, namely that there is a 4 week backlog to the processing of documents. I very much hope this is a teething problem, rather than the new status quo.
There are a number of implications of this. First, if every touch point with the Court takes an additional 4 weeks, this could amount to an extra 16 weeks in the divorce process. Second, practitioner’s need to review the advice given to clients if the acknowledgement of service is not received from the Court within the usual 14 days of the petition being issued, and accurate advice needs to be based on an ongoing knowledge of the current status of the backlog. Third, there are of course the implications of a delay in Decree Absolute being pronounced following a financial agreement being reached.
Hopefully these problems will improve, but in the meantime my sympathy goes out to divorcing couples facing more delays, and the staff at Bury St Edmunds Divorce Centre.