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Complications posed by new-style divorce form

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In recent days, concerns have been raised that a new-style divorce form which will ask separating couples to complete a ‘tick box’ questionnaire could complicate the divorce process.

Campaigners have warned that the new ten-page form – which encourages users to tick boxes requesting maintenance payments, lump sums and shares of property ahead of a Court hearing – might be asking a little too much of stressed-out couples who are on the brink of difficult disputes.

Commentators have also said that the new form will encourage more financial disputes and effectively “make the break-up of a marriage about nothing more than money.”

News of the new-style form comes at a time when HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is phasing in Financial Remedies Courts across the UK – which will see financial disputes heard in bespoke Courts, separate from related divorces.

The change, which has been spearheaded by Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, will see Remedies Courts begin running as part of a pilot scheme later this year – with the first few forecast to be up-and-running before the end of next month.

Around the same time, ‘Form A’ – the new-style divorce petition – will be approved for use, with a view to the forms eventually being ‘moved online’ once the Courts have the appropriate technology.

‘Form A’ will enable separating couples to state exactly what sort of financial settlement they want from their spouse at a very early stage.

However, commentators have warned that this poses a significant problem – in that Form A will be largely dependent on detail, yet many spouses will not have a full understanding of how best to proceed until the divorce process has begun and specialist legal advice has been sought.

Concerns have also been raised that confused spouses on the verge of difficult disputes will be tempted to “tick every available box” without seeking prior advice – which may not truly suit their circumstances and could lead to deeper dispute later down the line.

The comments highlight the importance of always seeking specialist legal advice in relation to divorce and separation at the earliest possible opportunity.

MFG Solicitors’ family team can advise on divorce, separation, the dissolution of civil partnerships and all other aspects of family law. For more information about how we could help you, please contact us.