Changes in relation to the Divorce Petition:

11 / 08 / 2017

One of the changes is that it is only until 4 September 2017 that a Divorce/Dissolution Petition (or an Answer to those Petitions) do not require a Statement of Truth to be signed.

After that time a Statement of Truth (which is upon the new forms, of which I deal with further below) must be signed.

A Statement of Truth confirms that the Petitioner/Applicant believes that the facts stated in the application for a divorce/dissolution/(judicial) separation are true. The form confirms that “Proceedings for contempt of court may be brought against a person who makes or causes to be made, a false statement in a document verified by a statement of truth”. It is therefore absolutely imperative that the contents are correct.

It has however always been important in that the Petition is placed before the Judge and further, one of the later forms for the Petitioner to sign is a Statement in Support of Petition. That form, in part, asks the Petitioner to confirm that everything in the Petition is true. I would say, however, that it certainly doesn’t hurt for a Petitioner to be reminded (by the Petition itself containing a Statement of Truth) about the importance of their belief in the contents.

As mentioned above, there are changes that have been implemented in relation to the Petition. The new (revised) Petition can be used from 7 August 2017 and must be used from 4 September 2017 (if the older forms are used post the latter date then they will be rejected by the Court).

There are various changes to the forms, including that the guidance notes are incorporated into the Petition itself (rather than as a separate document) and the new Petition appears more spaced out, with questions and answers.

There are also other changes including (but not limited to):

  • A note advising the Petitioner that the Petition will be sent to the other person and that if they do not want their contact details to be disclosed then they should complete a confidential contact details form; and
  • A note advising that when a Petitioner is applying for a divorce under the two years separation (with consent) or five years separation grounds “you can still live in the same residence while separated, as long as you are not living together as a couple, for example, you do not eat, sleep or cook together”.

There are also other changes in relation to Financial Remedy Proceedings:

The Rules had stated that if the Judge at the first Court hearing (known as the First Appointment)  decides it to be appropriate they must direct that the case is then set down for what is the Financial Dispute Resolution appointment (which will be used for the purposes of negotiation to see if an agreement can be reached between the relevant parties).

The Rules have now been amended to confirm that the Judge at the First Appointment must direct that a case is referred to a Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment unless:

(i) The First Appointment (the first Court hearing) has been used as an effective Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment (e.g. for the purposes of negotiations); or

(ii) There are exceptional circumstances which means a referral to a Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment would be inappropriate.

Part III of the Matrimonial & Proceedings Act 1984

This relates to where finances in relation to a divorce have been dealt with by a foreign Court and an applicant may (in certain circumstances) to the English Court for financial relief (if they believe what they received pursuant to the foreign Order was insufficient).

The first “hurdle” for an applicant to try to overcome, is the permission stage, i.e. permission to be able to even make the application under Part III.

The Rules had stated that the Court may grant permission to the Applicant without notice to the Respondent (the other person) (i.e. without them being advised in advance) if there were good reasons for not doing so. The Rules have now changed to state that the application to the Court (for permission) must be made without notice to the Respondent and further, that the application for permission will also be determined without notice to the Respondent, although “The court may direct that the application be determined on notice to the respondent if the court considers that to be appropriate”.

In relation to allocation of the case, previously the Rules had stated that if the permission application is successful, the High Court Judge may direct that the ongoing application (as at that stage the application would be ongoing/continuing as permission would have been granted) to a District Judge at the Principal Registry.

That part of the Rules has now been omitted (removed).

The (new/amended) Rules now makes reference to The Family Court (Composition and Distribution of Business) Rules 2014 which make provision in relation to the allocation of the proceedings to a specified level of judge in the family court. The 2014 Rules can therefore be consulted in that regard.