The form A application for a financial order asks for the address of any property which is the subject of an application for a property adjustment order to be inserted “in the box below”.
There are two issues with this.
First of all as you will see to the left, there isn’t a box.
Secondly there isn’t always a property even when this box has been ticked. Why not? Well it’s because you may just be asking the court to dismiss future claims rather than make an order now.
And yet I have today heard of Southampton divorce centre sending back a consent application because the property address was not filled in, in the box that isn’t there.
There are currently delays of 4-6 weeks to have post looked at, I understand, at Southampton and so it is pretty frustrating when this happens.
It is my understanding that all consent orders are supposed to be considered by a District Judge not an unqualified member of court staff. How realistic this is in the long term I don’t know. I don’t know how many District Judges they have moved to each centre. But given that there were county courts (many with several District Judges sitting in one place) in 92 towns and cities and now there are only 11 divorce centres, which have over the last few months started receiving all new divorce applications, the caseload will surely be too great.
They won’t be dealing with contested cases but, whilst we may have the impression from the media that all divorces end up in court, the opposite is in fact true. Every year the number of consent orders approved by the court service is more than double those which are initially contested and ten times the number which actually go to trial.
So it seems obvious that as the months go by the new divorce centres, which are now handling all routine consent orders, are going to have their work cut out.
It seem equally clear that not all consent orders can or will pass directly to the District Judges. There will presumably have to be preliminary checking – which I understand will, in the long run, speed up the process. But this is where I think there is much work still to be done at HMCTS. Newly trained but still inexperienced staff are dealing with forms which, let’s be honest, are barely fit for purpose.
Take the Form A. Somewhere in the transition from a single page form to a 13 page form (10 of which are entirely unnecessary for a consent order) things seem to have become muddled. When I read the statistics about 40% of all divorce forms being rejected because they are incorrectly filled in I wonder what else can be expected, when the forms are so poorly set out and the “notes for guidance” do anything but guide.
Please HMCTS can you give the box back if you want it to be filled in rather than just reject the forms, and please,please whilst you’re at it, can we have a single page form A for consent orders?
I advise anyone submitting a consent order over the next few months to be patient because things could get a lot slower before they begin to improve.