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Statistics show that 33 per cent of the 244,710 marriages that took place in 1995 had ended in divorce 15 years later. This compares with 22 per cent of marriages that took place in 1970. The workload of the Family Courts has consequently risen over this period, leading to many delays.
In an effort to tackle the problem, changes to the divorce process have been proposed. Under the proposals, which have been agreed by the Government, the process for initiating divorce will begin via an online hub or telephone service. The new web service is to be commissioned this year and will provide independent information for separating couples and direct them to services relevant to their needs. The telephone service will follow in 2013.
Divorcing parents are to be encouraged to draw up Parenting Agreements. These set out the practical arrangements consented to by the parents for the care and support of their children. The courts will no longer consider arrangements for the children in an uncontested divorce case.
The emphasis of the new system will be on resolving problems out of court, with the courts only becoming involved where really necessary. To facilitate this, legislation will require divorcing couples to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, strengthening the requirement to consider mediation that has been in place since April 2011.