News – Just in case you missed it

Backlash over £593 divorce fee

With the dawn of 'No-Fault Divorce', some are questioning the £593 fee currently payable in order to issue a divorce petition, given the process will be online and quicker following upcoming reforms. David Hodson, of the Law Society's family law committee, commented as follows: "That's fine if a judge is going to spend time on it and there's paper. For an online process, [it's an] absolute scandal and should be reduced".

Guidance for Section 25 Statements: do not include personal attacks

Mr Justice Peel introduced the reported case of WC v HC (Financial remedies Agreement) by noting that the Wife's statement contained a number of personal and prejudicial matters directed at Husband, which were completely irrelevant. Statements should not include such rhetoric, designed to paint the opposing party in a negative light. Decisions will not be made on "alleged moral turpitude".

Wife's statement also failed to comply with the order that it not be over 20 pages, as it failed to comply with Paragraph 5.2 of PD27A, requiring that it be typed in a font no smaller than size 12 with 1 ½ or double spacing. This was unacceptable, as it allowed her statement to be 33% longer than Husband's.

Further divorce reform called for

The new reforms to divorce law on 6 April 2022 deal solely with divorce matters, as opposed to financial matters. However, there is pressure in the House of Lords for the reforms to go further. During a recent parliamentary debate, Justice Minister Lord Wolfson faced questions about taking making more widescale changes. Baroness Deech commented that "the most miserable and litigious part of [divorce] will remain: the law about splitting assets and paying maintenance... legal costs eat up chunks of the assets. Unless it is reformed, the no-fault divorce law will fail to achieve its aims." Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia noted that under the current system no one can predict the outcome of an application accurately, as the rules are so left to the judge's discretion. Lord Wolfson indicated that financial provision will be looked at within weeks, after the introduction of the no-fault system.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (Commencement) Regulations 2022

These regulations bring into force on 6 April 2022 those provisions of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (c. 11) which are not already in force and will bring about the long-anticipated 'no-fault' system.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2022

These Regulations make amendments to primary and secondary legislation consequential on the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020. 

Outdoor civil weddings and civil partnerships made permanent

Following changes implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic, outdoor weddings and licenced venues in England and Wales will be legalised permanently. The move has garnered widescale support, with support from over 90% of people. Justice Minister Tom Pursglove MP said: "A wedding is one of the most important days in a person's life and it is right that couples should have greater choice in how they celebrate their special day.

Changes to Child Maintenance Service

New powers are being introduced that will expand the list of companies and organisations required to provide information to the Child Maintenance Service and allow communications to be done digitally rather than requiring in-person visits. DWP Lords Minister Baroness Stedman-Scott commented: "We're bringing the service into the modern age, removing barriers that can slow down cases and prevent money reaching children." It is hoped the reforms will allow for better enforcement of arrears, together with making the process for tracing parents and calculating maintenance easier.

Message from Mr Justice Mostyn: amendments to standard orders

With the introduction of no-fault divorce, significant changes to divorce terminology are being introduced. Petitions are now Applications; Decree Nisi is Conditional Order and Deree Absolute is Final Divorce Order.
This has necessitated changes to the standard orders, taking effect from 6 April 2022. The message from Mr Justice Mostyn and the revised orders can be found here.

A View from The President's Chambers: March 2022

Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, has published the latest 'A View from The President's Chambers' entitled' Make Every Hearing Count'. In it he discusses the current health of the system and what can be done to help improve matters and hopefully see more cases concluding and more hearings being effective. He also sets out the many and various initiatives ongoing within the family justice system in a bid for improvement, ultimately with the hope that pressure within the system. The full document can be read here

Appointments: National Lead Judge of the Financial Remedies Court and Judge-in-Charge of Standard Family Orders

Mr Justice Peel will be appointed at the National Lead Judge of the Financial Remedies Court and Judge-in-Charge of Standard Family Orders, with effect from 26 April 2022. Mr Justice Mostyn will hand over each of these roles.