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New Divorce Centres Aim to Finalise Divorce in 48 Hours

According to The Times, divorce centres will open in England and Wales that will aim to make getting a divorce as easy as obtaining a TV licence.

The move will effectively allow couples to get an “over the counter” divorce with the 120,000 seen in the UK being taken out of the UK court system and away from the public eye. The centres will aim to conclude a divorce in 48 hours and handle the vast majority of UK cases with the vast amount of paperwork being dealt with by administrators rather than judges.

Under the current divorce system in England and Wales, uncontested divorces cost around £400 and last on average 33 weeks.

Divorce “A Drain” for Judges

The move has been greeted by some as a way to save resources and save judges from conducting a long, drawn-out divorce process.

Julian Lipson, a family law partner at the international law firm Withers praised the move to streamline divorces. She said: “Uncontested divorce has become a process which legally is sufficiently standardised and formulaic that the paperwork has become an unjustified use of the judges’ increasingly limited time and resources.

“The generic processing of divorce by administrative staff could seem to some as the belittling of what is a significant and often painful moment in their lives, and the downgrading of divorce to a process no more momentous than applying for a driving licence.

“Inevitably, this will cause offence to some, who will not see, as a benefit, that it is intended to make divorce a streamlined process."

Harry Benson, research director of the Marriage Foundation, also welcomed the decision saying: “Divorce is a painful process for most couples. Moving divorces away from courts will be welcomed by most families.

“This change will not in any way undermine marriage. Unravelling the complexity of a life and family together is what makes breaking up hard to do, whether married or not. It’s not the legal aspect that affects couples’ decision to split.”

Changes Grounds for Divorce?

Although the move has been greeted by some, in particular, some legal experts, the move has also been criticised for potentially popularising divorce and changing grounds for divorce. Many believe that a rushed through divorce will allow more spontaneous divorce decision and may lead to a surge in the number of cases. Under English and Welsh law, five reasons for divorce can be cited such as adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years' separation with consent or five years' separation without consent. However, some legal experts have claimed that regardless of the new “over the counter” style divorces, the grounds for divorce would not change.

Despite claims that the changes to the divorce system would just free a judge to handle other cases, Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, condemned the move. She said: “This is a further erosion of the institution of marriage.

“What are people taking their vows for if they can get out of it as simply as that? What the law should be doing is upholding and recognising the significance and importance of marriage."

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