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Family practitioners urged to show greater diligence on divorce centres’ first anniversary

Basic checks could save time, money, and increase client satisfaction, says Tony Roe

5 October 2015

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With the anniversary of the first divorce centres on the horizon, new figures show that almost one in five divorce petitions are returned by Bury St Edmunds (BSE) due to errors.

BSE, which has experienced delays in the transferring of cases, is the single divorce centre for London and the South East. It now houses the work of all 45 courts in the region and receives between 1,250 and 1,300 petitions for issue per week.

However, 18.5 per cent of petitions are returned because of common mistakes, such as the names and/or place of marriage differing from a marriage certificate and the omission of reconciliation certificates in represented cases.

Family law solicitor and arbitrator, Tony Roe, who discovered the statistics, said he is concerned at the number of petitions per week (240) that have to be rejected.

'I understand that these are not simply divorces filed by litigants in person. They also comprise basic errors made by practitioners,' he explained.

'If firms were to adopt a basic double-check mechanism, ensuring that another fee earner looked over the divorce papers before they were filed, a lot of time and money could be saved, with less potential dissatisfaction for clients.'

BSE is expecting to issue upwards of 40,000 petitions per annum and around 800 petitions per week. HMCTS acknowledges, however that some issues need to be addressed.

Petitions are being processed in an average of four days (between one and eight days receipt). This slow progress has been attributed in some part to the problems at the acknowledgement of service stage, now addressed, and an issue at the point of directions for trial.

Roe added: 'I happen to know that the court service is keeping a watching brief on social media, which has apparently informed them where they need to take corrective action. They regard the comments as generally mixed, but say that are helpful in providing an overview of practitioner experience.'

HMCTS plans to ensure all work processed within a maximum five days of receipt by the end of October 2015 and a maximum of two days of receipt by the end of December 2015.

Matthew Rogers is an editorial assistant at Solicitors Journal

Categorised in:

Divorce Courts & Judiciary