The separation of divorce and ‘money’
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division has recently provided further details of new specialist courts being piloted to deal with the financial aspect of divorce proceedings. In December 2017, Munby set out a blueprint for the financial remedies courts (FRC), which are part of wider efforts to separate divorce administratively from its financial consequences.
The FRC, which will be part of the Family Court, will deal with all types of financial remedy cases dealt with in the Family Court or Family Division; claims for ancillary and other relief under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973; claims under Schedule 1 to the Children Act 1989; claims under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984; and, in due course, claims under the Inheritance Act 1975 and claims under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996.
The FRC will be piloted in London, the West Midlands and South-East Wales. The basic concept of the courts builds on the family court and Court of Protection models. Each circuit will typically have two regional hubs, headed by a lead judge. This must be a judge (either a Circuit Judge or District Judge) with experience and expertise in financial remedy work. The FRC will initially use paper files and HM Courts & Tribunals Service is working on transitioning the FRC to a fully digitialised model as soon as possible.
In February 2018, Munby placed before the Family Procedure Rule Committee a draft revised Form A, designed to be used for all types of financial remedy applications. This revised Form A will contain sufficient information to enable a very early allocation decision to be made by a judicial gatekeeper at the regional hub.
Further in the attempt to separate divorce and ‘money’, Munby has recently addressed the concerns in relation to the suggested changes in the current divorce petition. Munby has clarified that the question relating to financial claims in the petition shall be retained and a corresponding question shall be inserted into the acknowledgement of service. The amended Form A will refer back, where applicable, to the fact that the application has been flagged or made in the petition or acknowledgement of service.
Munby anticipates the introduction of the FRC will facilitate the de-linking of divorce and ‘money’ so that they are started and pursued by completely separate processes with the hope that financial remedies will no longer be labeled as the ‘Cinderella of family justice.’
Please contact Kathryn Ainsworth or Simran Lalli if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article