National divorce centres will reduce the pressure on courts by cutting bureaucracy claims a leading legal expert.
Kulbir Rahi of Staines based solicitors Dale & Newbery said the new scheme, which has attracted media controversy, is a more efficient way of ending marriage.
“Some have said divorce centres are trivialising divorce, but the aim is to make the process of uncontested divorces more straightforward and streamlined,” she said.
“None of this will alter the heart-breaking decisions that are involved in a failed marriage which makes divorce difficult,” she said. “The paperwork is just a small and perhaps insignificant part in the big scheme,” she added.
She said that over-the-counter divorces, which could take as little as 48 hours, will be available from this month at regional centres.
The application process is unchanged but the great majority will be taken out of the courtroom. The admin work will be processed by administrative staff although the final decree will still have to be approved by a district judge.
“An uncontested divorce is standardised enough that the paperwork does not need the intervention of judges, who are very busy people. The intention is to free up District Judges to deal with other urgent applications which hopefully will result in a more efficient and effective service,” she said.
Under the new divorce centre system, centres are likely to process most of the 120,000 annual divorces in the country, with officials aiming to finalise applications within as little as two days.
Until now, most uncontested divorces have taken around 33 weeks.
Mrs Rahi added that the new system would also benefit couples planning to separate as it will avoid the stress of court hearings.
“Divorce remains a very emotionally draining process for the majority,” she added. “The exclusion of the courtroom will be welcomed by the vast majority.”