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Family Section

Administrative de-linking of financial proceedings from divorce: here to stay?

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A pilot divorce administration system, under which contested financial remedy proceedings are ‘de-linked’ from the main divorce proceedings has proved a success, reports Tony Roe.

In his 17th View, ‘Divorce and money – where are we and where are we going’, president of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, called for a complete ‘de-linking’ of divorce and money.

Munby first proposed uncoupling the process of adjudicating claims for financial relief from divorce in his 13th View from August 2014.

Nearly three years later, at the end of April 2017, a pilot scheme was announced in the South West Regional Divorce Centre in Southampton for the administrative delinking of financial proceedings from divorce.

Under the pilot, which began on 2 May, the main divorce proceedings remain in the specialist centre, whilst staff and judiciary at the local hearing centres work independently on the contested financial proceedings.

HMCTS has now announced that the pilot has been successful, suggesting that the pilot has managed to reduce delays by up to two weeks. I welcome a more effective and speedy approach to resolving financial proceedings, and very much hope that the national roll-out of the new process will bring this about across the country.

The April announcement of the pilot stated that consent applications will remain at the divorce centres. As long as they do, there will not be a total de-linking of finances and divorce.

On a wider note, whilst the president noted in his 17th View that only a minority of divorce cases give rise to a money claim, it is important for parties, particularly litigants in person, to be aware of the implications of leaving financial aspects unresolved without a consent order dismissing any potential claims. Wyatt v Vince [2015] UKSC 14 demonstrated such risks when a former wife successfully brought a claim for financial remedies some 20 years after decree absolute.

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