COUPLES looking to separate will have to make use of a single “divorce hub” in a radical overhaul of how the country deals with divorce.
Undefended divorces will soon be dealt with by some 12 centres throughout England and Wales, and Bury St Edmunds will be the single divorce centre for the south east circuit.
The revelations came after a series of freedom of information requests submitted by Tony Roe, principal of Berkshire law firm Tony Roe Solicitors.
He said: “Until now, you could go along to your local county court and file your divorce.
“This is all changing and means that virtually all divorce petitions will be processed at those dozen centres unless they require a hearing, something only needed for the tiny proportion of divorces that are defended.
“At a meeting with HM Court Service (HMCTS) in May, it said that it intends to transfer this undefended divorce work from all the courts by this October, unless it is urgent.”
Already the work of 28 out of 45 courts in the south east has been transferred to Bury St Edmunds, and Reading and London are expected to follow suit.
He added: “I think that there should have been a lot more information made available much earlier on.
“We shouldn’t have had to make the FOI requests to get this information.
“There needs to be much more information for ordinary people.
“HMCTS hopes for economies of scale, not to mention a better service. The new divorce centres will also deal with financial matters but only when they are agreed from the start.
“Contested financial applications will be transferred to courts local to the parties.”
A spokeswoman for HM Courts and Tribunals said that the move will “streamline processes, reduce delay and be a centre of expertise for all divorce and financial remedy applications”.
She said: “Hearings will continue to take place at local hearing venues, at the most suitable location for the parties involved.
“There will be no loss of staff at Reading County Court – 2.5 posts will move to Bury St Edmunds, but the staff at Reading will be redeployed on other work.”