Mackrell Turner Garrett

National Lawyers, Internationally

 

Single Family court and Central Divorce centre

 
 
 
White Collar Crime
 

There was, in England & Wales, on 22 April 2014 the implementation of the single Family Court (the official title is ‘the Family Court’). This does not mean that, as in other countries, there is a dedicated family law court building. It does however mean that there is now a single point of entry to the family court system.This court has jurisdiction in all family proceedings (with some exceptions for High Court matters) and so there is no longer separate family jurisdiction in the magistrates’ courts and county courts. In practice this court sits in county and magistrates courts to hear family cases. The Family Proceedings court no longer exists. The title of the Family Court is now always the Family Court sitting at [Location of court] i.e. The Family Court sitting at Bow.

When an application is issued in the Family Court the new ‘Gatekeeping team’ will determine which level of judge the case is allocated to and they will issue standard directions.

The following cases must be heard at the High Court:

(a) inherent jurisdiction cases;

(b) international cases under the Hague Convention or Brussels IIA.

There is also a network of divorce centres being established to handle the vast majority of applications. Both District Judges and legal advisers will be on site at all of the centres and a lot of the work will be dealt with by the legal advisors who will be overseen by the judges. Divorce centres will be the only points of entry across the single Family Court for the issuing of divorce petitions and financial remedy applications and if a hearing is required then the hearing will take place at the most suitable location for the parties.

The Divorce Centres are being centralised by region and some are already up and running – see table below taken from the Resolution website showing the court for each region and effect from date:

Region

Centralised to

Fully live with effect from

North East

Durham, Bradford (and Harrogate), Doncaster

November 2014

Wales

Neath & Port Talbot, Newport (Gwent), Wrexham

January 2015

North West

Liverpool

February 2015

Midlands

Nottingham, Stoke-on-Trent

February 2015

South West

Southampton

April 2015

London and South East

Bury St Edmunds

October 2015

There was a widely reported case Rapisarda v Colladon (Irregular Divorces) [2014] EWFC 35 in which Sir James Munby, president of the family division, ruled that 180 Italian couples who were divorced in England between 2010 and 2012 obtained their judgments using systematic fraud and forgery. In all but one case, the couples claimed that one of them lived at a Flat in Maidenhead. The parties claimed to be habitually resident in England and Wales and residing at the above address which was in fact not a residential address at all but just a mailbox number.

It is hoped that the centralising of the divorce entry points will also filter out any further abuse of the English divorce courts.