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‘Divorce capital of the world’ to miss out on its own centralised divorce centre

Family specialist says MoJ need a more detailed and considered approach than one based on costs alone

6 January 2015

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Family specialist says MoJ need a more detailed and considered approach than one based on costs alone

Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk will be the most likely venue for a divorce centre for London and the South East, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has revealed.

The MoJ provided the information concerning the centralisation of divorce processing in England and Wales in response to a Freedom of Information Request (FoI) from a Berkshire family law firm.

Tony Roe of Tony Roe Solicitors made the request due to the lack of clarity in the MoJ's reply to an original request, in which he had asked for a likely 'final list' of all courts that would remain able to process divorce petitions.

In its response to the FoI, the MoJ said Bury St Edmunds had been identified as the likely venue for the London and South East Centre but consultation was not yet completed.

The MoJ continued: "If the current proposal is accepted implementation will not commence until later this year because the Bury St Edmunds building is being refurbished and is currently unoccupied. Building works are expected to be completed in March 2015."

Bury St Edmunds was proposed as the divorce centre for the South East and London following a thorough review of the HMCTS estate, London and South East workload and resource availability. The Bury building was the most cost-effective option, is a sufficient size and was deemed to provide the greatest scope to improving the service delivered to court users.

Commenting on the MoJ's statement, Roe said: "It is astounding that London, supposed divorce capital of the world, is not to have a divorce centre of its own. Where there is an international element to a matter, one needs to be able to attend court and issue on an urgent basis. The MoJ has not set out how these emergency jurisdictional aspects might be dealt with. We need to see a much more detailed and considered approach, and one that does not simply focus on costs."

The MoJ's also confirmed the already agreed divorce centres:

• Midlands - Nottingham and Stoke

• North East - Doncaster, Durham and Bradford

• North West - Liverpool

• Wales - Neath, Newport and Wrexham

The proposed venue for the South West's divorce centre is the Southampton Combined Court.

"The court has staff resources and office space available due to the movement of some other administrative work out of Southampton," said the MoJ.

"Consequently the recruitment and set up costs for the new unit would be significantly reduced. The legal resource in Southampton is also sufficient in terms of legal advisers, which includes the pool available across Hampshire. In terms of judiciary, Southampton and the surrounding area has the highest proportion of district judge allocation in the region."

The FoI request and reply can be read in full here.


John van der Luit-Drummond is legal reporter for Solicitors Journal

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