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Divorce Centres: Julian Hawkhead on BBC Radio 5 Live

BBC Radio 5 Live Drive – Anna Foster and Tony Livesey – 22 June 2015

Stowe Family Law’s Managing Partner Julian Hawkhead was interviewed by Anna Foster on BBC Radio to discuss the introduction of divorce centres across the country and what their introduction could mean.


AF:               Anna Foster

JH:              Julian Hawkhead


AF:              Getting divorced can be a long and painful process can’t it, but couples who want to legally end their marriage might be able to do so in a matter of weeks soon rather than months that it takes at the moment. Eleven new dedicated Divorce Centres are due to open across England and Wales where Legal Advisors rather than Judges will deal with the majority of cases it’s to try and free up judicial time and reduce the number of delays in the system. Let’s talk to Julian Hawkhead, who’s Managing Partner of Stowe Family Law. Hello Julian.


JH:              Good afternoon, Anna.


AF:              So how much quicker could this be potentially?


JH:              Well it has the potential of being turned around in terms of the paperwork far more quickly. At the moment what we are finding is there are over 100 Courts up and down the country which have been able to process divorces, and these have been centralised into 11 regions so for example here in Leeds we have the local Court in Bradford which has been turned into a local Family Divorce Centre, and will process divorce papers. The divorce process itself is actually a paper exercise anyway, so it does make sense to have Legal Advisors, I suppose dare I say, lower paid civil servants dealing with the process of divorce rather than Judges who are in greater demand for hearings and administering justice.


AF:              Is it the sort of thing where anybody’s divorce would be able to go through one of these or is it just the simpler ones that aren’t mired in wrangling?


JH:              Well talking about the divorce process itself in terms of filing the Divorce Petition applying for the interim of decree of divorce called the decree nisi, and then finally applying for decree absolute the vast majority of that process would be handed over to these Legal Advisors rather than Judges and its really just a form filling exercise with some box ticking, and its quite easily processed, so it does certainly cut down on judicial time.


AF:              So it works for everyone so perhaps if you couldn’t decide what was happening with the house or the children for example would that kind of divorce still need to go in front of a Judge?


JH:              Yes it would as I say in terms of the paper exercise that would be dealt with a Legal Advisor, but in terms of contests over financial resources or disputes over children they would still be dealt with by Judges.


AF:              Does it improve things I suppose making it easier for people to get divorced. Is it supposed to be a complicated process so people think more deeply about it?


JH:              I think society is definitely moving towards the idea that the divorce itself should not be acrimonious but we are trying to take out the business from divorce but I have to say that some of these reforms are financially driven. The idea of trying to streamline the divorce process and taking away from Judges who as I say are in greater demand for hearings and so on but I don’t think the process is any easier really. From my understanding the process will remain the same you will still have to fill in the Petition form in the same way its just a question who deals with it in the Court Office rather than making it any easier for people I think my greater concern would be for people – we are looking at this in a time when Legal Aid has been withdrawn so its difficult for people to afford legal advice, so say for example here in Yorkshire we have the Bradford Family Court Centre but then you are potentially dealing with people over in Scarborough or people in North Yorkshire who are having to file their divorce papers in the post they don’t really know how to fill the papers in and they no longer have the access to somebody over the counter who they can sort through the process with.


AF:              Yes it’s interesting. Julian Hawkhead thank you. Julian Hawkhead from Stowe Family Law.

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