Financial claims, which can run into their millions, often result in long, drawn out proceedings that can take years to finalise. Sir James Munby’s answer? A separate Financial Remedies Court, set to launch in February next year.
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, has announced that the new courts will be set up in three places, and will mean that financial claims can be heard separately, by specialist Judges, who have the expertise to deal with such cases. The aim is to speed up the process and make the system more effective, proving more efficient to divorcees with both low and high financial claims.
Figures from the Ministry of Justice have demonstrated an increase in the average number of weeks that it takes for a case to reach a Decree Absolute, the final stage of divorce. This has risen from 42 weeks in 2006, to 49 weeks last year. The slowing of the process has prompted calls for change.
Experts in the field will listen to the cases put forward at Financial Remedy Courts, in a move that had been “persuasively argued” to Sir James Munby by other judges. Sir James Munby spoke up six months ago regarding the benefits of de-linking the issue of divorce and money, and pointed to a trial conducted at the South West Regional Divorce Centre in Southampton. This pilot for Financial Remedy Courts saw cuts in delays.
The scheme will take shape much like the system already in place in South East England, where cases are paired with courts on the basis of the judges expertise.
The program will be rolled out in London, South-East Wales and the West-Midlands. The move is all part of a big push towards a modernised justice system. Part of this move also trialled online divorces for uncontested cases, which now look likely to be extended.
Whilst the introduction of Financial Remedy Courts sound promising, and with great potential to accelerate the divorce process, there will be more strain on the administration process. If this is well managed and staffed, it will be interesting to see if the pilot scheme enables cases to move more swiftly through the courts. If the pilot scheme demonstrates positive results, then it is likely to be something that is extended across the UK.
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