Court backlogs caused by Covid-19 have affected divorce applications and financial remedy proceedings, causing delays, even though remote hearings began to be held last year.
Lockdown and the effect of the pandemic came on top of existing backlogs, increasing waiting times for people with paper divorce applications – as if going through a divorce wasn’t stressful enough!
But for those with access to the online divorce portal, rolled out in 2019, backlogs could be avoided in cases where the respondent spouse was unrepresented. In cases where the respondent was represented, problems with admitting their solicitors to the portal meant those cases still had to be made via a paper application. However, for those applications which could be made through the portal, there has been a significant reduction in the amount of time it takes for a divorce to reach the final stage of decree absolute, which can only be seen as a positive.
The picture for financial remedy proceedings hasn’t been quite so bright as there was no such online portal for these applications. People have therefore had no choice but to wait patiently for the court to get through their mammoth case list. On a positive note, this has given parties the opportunity to explore alternative methods of reaching a settlement which could be quicker and cheaper than continuing with court proceedings.
However, as we come out of an unforgettable 12 months, it is welcome to see that hearings are being listed, and cases are being dealt with much more quickly. More hearings are also being listed in person, increasing the chances of reaching an agreement between the parties. New applications are being issued promptly, and a court timetable set, which gives parties the focus many need to settle the matter as soon as possible and mitigate against increasing legal costs.