August 12, 2015

Court closure proposals will not affect family law reforms

Last month, the Government announced a consultation on the closure of 91 courts and tribunals across England and Wales – around a fifth of the total number.

Justice Secretary Michael Gove said that the proposals to shut down underused facilities would save the taxpayer millions of pounds.

But the news raised questions about whether the proposed cost-cutting programme would affect the strategy to centralise divorce services, which is currently being implemented.

Plans to shut two local courts in the vicinity of Bury St Edmunds – the location for one of 11 regional divorce centres – was one of several potential problems identified by family lawyers.

The fear arose from the fact that the centres are primarily designed to handle routine and non-urgent cases and alternative sites will still be needed for certain types of hearing.

With concerns arising about similar disruption in other parts of the country, a HM Courts and Tribunal Services spokesman issued a statement to assure individuals and law firms that the family reforms had been factored into the changes.

They said that in cases where a divorce was contested, appropriate venues would still be available.

Ministers hope that the move away from divorce petitions being dealt with through hundreds of local courts will simplify the process and make the system less vulnerable to fraud.

The transfer of divorce work to the new centres is expected to conclude in the autumn.

To find out more about the family services we provide, please contact Patrick Hart from our Family Law team today.

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