A new regional divorce centre in Bury St Edmunds which will handle 40 per cent of applications in England and Wales has started taking on work.
The centre, based at Triton House, in St Andrews Street North, is taking on duties from the 45 divorce courts in London and the south east and will issue about 40,000 divorce petitions per year.
Work has already been transferred from 28 South East courts including those in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Kent, Norfolk, Suffolk and Surrey. Cases from a further 17 courts in the region will be moved over on a phased basis to the centre, which has created 70 new jobs.
The HM Courts and Tribunals Service says that by October 2015 all undefended divorce work with the exception of urgent matters will be processed through the centre.
Concerns remain though that the court system in the area is already overstretched with increased backlogs of work.
Liz Hodder, a partner at Gross & Co specialising in family law, said: “There’s always been a back log of work for the court in the same way there’s always back logs of work for lawyers. However, we’ve noticed in the last couple of months that the back logs have got longer and that’s just with the standard work coming out of the court so quite what it’s going to be like when it starts fielding all of the work from the South East I just don’t know because if they’re struggling at the moment, when the flood gates open I don’t know how it’s going to work.”
Stephen Williams, head of the family department at Ashton KCJ, said it is ‘probably early days’ to be able to comment on how well the centralisation is working. He said: “We haven’t as yet noticed any serious delays at this firm but it’s just too early to tell.”
A question and answer session about the centre was held at Charles Russell Speechlys on May 26 and an information sheet was handed out.
It said the HM Courts and Tribunal Service aims for all work to be processed at the centre on the day of receipt or within 48 hours at the latest.
The document added: “This is a challenging ideal but is achievable once the centre is fully staffed and operational. We therefore anticipate achieving this service level from October 2015.”
On the transfer of work from other courts, a spokeswoman added: “Communications are being issued to parties broadly two-weeks prior to work transferring. This notice period is designed to avoid spikes in workload i.e. to ensure a smooth flow of work into the divorce centre.”