All change in English divorce courts, but public are kept in the dark

07 April 2011

The Family Procedure Rules and forms for divorce in England and Wales county courts all changed this week.

Divorce decrees are now called matrimonial orders, and ancillary relief proceedings have been replaced by financial orders.

People without adequate mental capacity are now known as “protected parties”, and the terms “next friend” and “Guardian ad Litem” are replaced by “Litigation Friend” and “Children’s Guardian”. The family courts now no longer need to transfer matters to county court level where a party lacks capacity and require the services of the Official Solicitor.

All this is meant to make the system more “user-friendly”. But nobody appears to have told the general public about the changes, except for a few articles about the increased emphasis on mediation. Even lawyers have had great difficulty getting hold of the new forms, which were finally approved by HM Court Service only a few days ago. Anyone submitting the old forms will find them rejected, even though they were still available on the HMCS website until 5 April.

“There is no way that people who are dealing with a divorce without a lawyer will have any idea that this [has been] implemented”, said Mark Keenan of Divorce Online.





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The new rules

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