Waiting for the No-Fault divorce bill will prolong divorce timeframe
The no-fault divorce bill has been well received since its announcement in April 2019. The bill will remove having to blame one party for the failure of the marriage. Just saying the marriage has irreconcilably broken down will be enough of a reason to apply for a divorce. In a recent survey conducted by Divorce Negotiator Ltd, many people are waiting for the new no-fault divorce bill to be passed, before applying for their divorce. This is to avoid the blame game.
The divorce bill is making its way through the parliamentary process to become law. This process will obviously get slowed by Brexit taking more parliamentary attention, but that is another story.
But what will happen when the bill is finally passed?
Firstly, we need to consider the current situation of the divorce handling process. At the beginning of the year, there were 11 divorce centres in England and Wales processing divorces. This was cut to 10 when the West Midlands Divorce Centre closed in July 2019. Their caseload was transferred to East Midlands and latterly, Liverpool too since East Midlands could not cope with the workload. In May 2019, the President of the Family Division, Andrew McFarlane, said that the 11 regional divorce centres are 'being phased out during the current 12-month period' and are to be replaced by an online system based in the new National Civil and Family Service Centre in the north of the country.
It seems all the remaining 10 divorce centres are aware of what will be a huge reduction in staff. 16000 positions are being cut to 11000 as part of the process, will the valuable staff be offered relocation? Or merely lose their jobs. Staff at the divorce centres have said the current system is in chaos, with huge backlogs and mistakes being made.
The changes to the divorce process with the no-fault bill will add to the issues of the divorce centres as it will require the online system to change as well as staff training to be completed. Let's face it when we’re told ‘this will make life simpler’ there is a transition period. It gets worse before it gets better. That is exactly what has happened with this new system, 12 months on and still not running correctly. Now they want to change a not working system to another new one! God help those wanting to get a simple divorce.
The uncertainty over the creation of a National Civil and Family Service Centre and move to a wholly digital service will certainly increase the workload on staff making the current chaotic system even slower.
Carol Sullivan, Managing Director of Divorce Negotiator Ltd, said: "I would recommend anybody considering divorce to start the process as soon as possible rather than let your divorce get mixed up in the chaotic divorce process that is now predicted." The Government report states The average time frame for divorce has increased by 9% to 373 days over 2017. This is not our experience. If the parties were lucky enough to be pointed to the centre dealing with online, maybe, but for those who found themselves in one of the other centres, then you double this time frame. This will undoubtedly increase substantially over the coming year. Get started early to avoid huge delays.