At Onions & Davies Solicitors we have been advising and assisting clients with divorce for decades, and we are experienced in achieving for our clients good financial remedy outcomes enabling our clients and their children to move on in their lives post-separation.
We have until relatively recently been able to advise our clients that they should be able to achieve a divorce, assuming matters are straightforward and undefended, within 5-6 months. Appreciating, however, that financial matters may take a little longer, and that Decree Absolute in divorce proceedings may be delayed until a financial order has been made.
These days, however, the time it takes to achieve a divorce makes for rather depressing reading. The Ministry of Justice publishes quarterly Family Court statistics, and those published in June 2018, confirm that the average time it takes to achieve Decree Nisi is now 27 weeks, and 51 weeks to reach Decree Absolute.
So why the delay?
Well all divorce applicants must wait at least 6 weeks from Decree Nisi before applying for Decree Absolute anyway, and so some delay is naturally expected here.
The 24 weeks reported between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute, will in fact be due to some extent to the fact that
applications for financial remedy cannot be processed by the court until Decree Nisi, and so it is at this stage of the process where we expect to see either financial remedy hearings before the Family Court or negotiations between
solicitors, or via family mediation perhaps, in full swing. The finances, usually the family home amongst others, can often be the most important issues to resolve.
The way that the system operates, however, has changed since the implementation of the Single Family Court in April 2014 and the new regional divorce centres – the most local to our offices being West Midlands Divorce Unit in Stoke on Trent.
This sees practitioners no longer choosing where to issue proceedings and dealing with trained court staff for processing and updates, but instead lodging applications centrally with the local divorce centre, and seeing cases being ensnared in administrative delay, with only call centre handlers to speak to.
These changes followed fairly soon after the LASPO Act reforms in 2012 which essentially made legal aid inaccessible for private family law matters such as divorce, financial remedy and private children matters – I.e. cases involving children which have been brought by private individuals such as parents or grandparents (as opposed to the local authority – public children matters). These reforms have meant that legal representation must be privately funded and, for those who are not able or willing to pay, the court will deal with them directly as Litigants in Person (LIPs).
Naturally, LIPs invariably do not have the legal expertise or knowledge of a family lawyer, which means the magistrates or Judge are tasked with ensuring that the issues and procedures are fully explained. The provision of this extra assistance, has created a huge burden on the court system, and added to the delays.
At Onions & Davies Solicitors we are sensitive to the fact that our clients can find legal bills difficult to manage. Do not rule out speaking to us if you wish to access expert legal advice but wish to manage your bills. We can talk you through your options at a no-obligation fixed fee initial appointment. Call Sharon on 01630 652405 for details.