The Law Society Gazette has commented this month that the wait for separated parties to get divorced is “getting longer”.
Quarterly statistics published by the Ministry of Justice, from January to March 2019 show that the average time from a Divorce Petition to Decree Absolute is now 59 weeks, and the Petition to Decree Nisi is 33 weeks.
The waiting times have increased since the regional divorce centres were set up in 2015. Apparently the south-east is the “worst hit”.
What is our experience of our local divorce unit?
With our main offices being in Wilmslow in Knutsford (we also have meeting rooms in Manchester, Stockton Heath and London) the majority of our clients’ divorce petitions are issued out of Liverpool Family Court (the divorce unit for the North West). In our recent experience it can take between 3 – 5 months from the Divorce Petition being issued to receiving the Decree Nisi of divorce, which is the first stage in the divorce proceedings.
From the date of Decree Nisi, the Petitioner (the person making the application for the divorce) must wait 6 weeks and 1 day before making the application for Decree Absolute, which is the final stage in the divorce proceedings.
From our experience, Liverpool Family Court are presently dealing with applications for Decree Absolute as a matter of priority and the Decree Absolutes are usually received within 7 – 28 days of the application having been made. This of course may change and depends upon whether there are any staffing issues and at certain times of year there may be back-logs.
One aspect that hasn’t been addressed by the Law Society Gazette’s article is that in a lot of cases, an application for Decree Absolute is delayed is due to financial matters not having been resolved. This can naturally lead to a delay in the Decree Absolute being applied for and may be one reason as to why the divorce process is being seen to be getting “longer”. There can be implications for an individual if there is a Decree Absolute before financial matters have been resolved (and finalised by way of a Final Order or Consent Order).
Actually, in the majority of cases, individuals wait until the finances are resolved until applying for the Decree Absolute. This is particularly important if there are substantial pensions involved. If there is a Decree Absolute in place and one of the parties’ dies prior to the finances being resolved, then the other party may lose rights that they might otherwise have had as a surviving spouse under their ex-spouse’s pension scheme. That can be easily overlooked and it is for that reason, if you are considering getting divorced or don’t know whether it’s the appropriate time to apply for the Decree Absolute, that you seek advice from a Family Lawyer as to any risks and benefits in doing so and the best course of action to take.