Divorce Online offer the ‘UK’s best selling managed divorce service’ for the slender sum of £182. And, their website tells me, this is not the only ‘UK’s best’ they offer: ‘We use the UK’s fastest divorce court* – We visit the court every working day.’ Scroll to the very small print at the bottom to find the asterisk to find that this assertion is ‘Based on a survey of 15 divorce courts in September 2008.‘ I’m pretty sure that there are more than 15 divorce courts in the UK, so I’m a little puzzled about how such a survey could demonstrate the proposition at hand, but anyway…
I happen to know from my spies (I gossip in court corridors) that ‘the fastest divorce court’ referred to herein is in fact Swindon County Court, which is not as much as a 2 minute walk from the offices of the providers of the ‘UK’s fastest selling managed divorce service’. Handy that. Unfortunately, it is not that Swindon County Court’s reputation for speediness precedes it – speed not being characteristically associated with neither HM’s fine Court Service in general nor Swindon County Court in particualr. No, this is because it is whispered in the legal lobbies of Swindon that there has been a 40% increase in divorce petitions issued in Swindon, attributable to the UK’s fastest growing provider of the UK’s fastest divorce who have been issueing the UK’s fastest growing number of petitions in any one court. And it seems to be causing a teensy bit of a logjam in the combined court office (I may understate this a tad – chaos certainly appeared to reign when I was last there, but this is a mere snapshot and no doubt is at least in part due to the more resource and structural difficulties that is endemic in HMCS). But really – Oops. As if the poor HMCS staff have any spare capacity.
So I’d guess that Swindon is no longer ‘the fastest divorce in the west’. If it ever was. And in fact I wonder if things might get rather worse before they get better since the Family Proceedings Rules provide that any Children Act application issued whilst a petition is pending (or for a period thereafter) must be issued in the court seized of that petition (although this rule is I acknowledge that this particular rule is often ignored). So for all those happy beneficiaries of the fastest divorce who live in Newcastle or Ipswich (or wherever else is miles from Swindon) and who discover some way down the line that the process of separation is not quite as straightforward as handing over 180 smackers and a-wham-bang-thankyou-ma’am it’s all done – whilst the divorce may be a snip and a snap, there may be some irritating delay caused further down the line when their application to resolve the dispute about the kids has to be issued in Swindon and then delayed for transfer to the court where the child actually lives. If they’re lucky they’ll avoid having to attend any hearings miles away from home (you can’t attend a hearing via the internet). And whilst I wish them well, I reckon Divorce Online may soon be able to add ‘Swindon County Court’s most un-favourite outfit’ to their list of fastest and best.