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Tick Box Divorce to be Trialled

Posted: 13/02/18 by Wilson Browne Solicitors

Newly formed “Financial Remedies Courts” will soon start trialling a “tick box” system for dealing with the financial aspect of divorce.

Under the plans these newly established Financial Remedies Courts (FRCs) will review a 10 page “Form A” that allows spouses to tick boxes asking for maintenance payments, a lump sum or a share of the property. The forms will be capable of being downloaded under sweeping plans to streamline the system of divorce in England and Wales.

Legal formalities for ending a marriage would, for now, be left as they are and dealt with by the Family Courts, but the financial element of divorce could be settled elsewhere, leaving the divorce as a simple matter of approval.

The plans for this radical change in the approach to dealing with finances on divorce have been drawn up by a number of senior judges and led by Sir James Munby, President of the High Court’s Family Division.

As a pilot scheme is proposed, the eventual plan would see 10 “hubs” across the country handle major cases with 47 local courts. Sir James Munby has made it clear in the past that he wants divorce to stop being a legal matter and instead for divorces to be recorded at local Register Offices.

The initial pilot is planned to roll out in London, the West Midlands and South-East Wales, with a rolling programme for pilots in other areas.

Once the new Financial Remedies Courts have the technology, the plan is to move the forms online.

Lawyers have warned that the scheme expects divorcing couples to know at the outset what assets are involved and what sort of order will be best for them, details that many spouses do not have at the start of divorce proceedings.

Lawyers who represent divorcing couples will be concerned at the risk of ill-informed spouses being taken advantage of if they are not properly represented. The Financial Remedies Courts will be overseen by a national lead judge and will initially deal only with ancillary relief applications, although the plan is for all financial remedy claims currently dealt with in the Family Court or Family Division to be dealt with at these FRCs in time.

Partner Sally Robinson who heads the Family Law Team at Wilson Browne Solicitors said: “We often see clients who simply have no idea about the finances in the relationship and do not understand what remedies are available to them. We can explain the range of Orders a Court can make, from lump sums to pension sharing orders. Spouses filling in a form online are likely to tick all the boxes just to be sure they have covered all options and that does not necessarily speed the process up. Clients will always benefit from experienced legal advice”.

Sir James Munby has suggested the pilot could roll out as early as 1 February 2018, but a spokesman for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service has confirmed that they are working with the judiciary on a pilot scheme for the creation of Courts to deal simply with the financial aspect of divorce and separation and that plans are at an early stage.

For any advice on Divorce or Relationship Breakdown, call our Specialist Team on 0800 088 6004.

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