Olivia Wilde - The Danger of an Envelope

Olivia Wilde – The Danger of an Envelope

Whilst working on stage in Las Vegas, Olivia Wilde was served with court papers relating to the custody arrangements for her children. Here, Melissa Jones looks at the case making headlines around the world.

The children’s father, Jason Sudeikis who had brought the application in the USA did not appear to be aware that this would happen as it has been reported:

“Mr Sudeikis had no prior knowledge of the time or place that the envelope would have been delivered as this would solely be up to the process service company involved, and he would never condone her being served in such an inappropriate manner,” the source added.”  https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/olivia-wilde-custody-papers-cinemacon-las-vegas-jason-sudeikis-b996780.html

What happens with service of papers in the UK? Can I be served at work?

It’s a possible worry for a lot of parents but not one that has seemingly featured in the family courts in England and Wales. If this was a situation, within the English Courts, with service of court papers, the starting point is making sure you have a current correspondence address for the respondent (parent/carer) to your application to the court. This allows service, to them privately, at their place of residence.  They can then open the documents in private and away from the children.

Once your application is issued, the court will take steps to send your application to the respondent at the address provided and/or your legal representative can arrange for this to be served upon the respondent by post.

The new system effectively allows couples to file a sole or joint application for divorce without blame and without having to wait the 2-year period. The legal test to show the marriage has “irretrievably broken down” still must be passed, but without the necessity to blame the other for couples who want to start the divorce process straight away. It has yet to be seen how much “evidence” the court will need for the legal test to be passed. The overall aim is to make the process more streamlined, by reducing the level of animosity, encouraging couples to work together (hence the ability for a joint application) and largely removing the ability to defend the proceedings.

This may make the process less emotionally charged. The actual procedure after the initial application will be similar – the court, if satisfied the marriage has irretrievably broken down will confirm the parties are legally entitled to the divorce and grant a “Conditional Order” (which is to replace the “Decree Nisi”). Then there will be a Final Order to bring the marriage to an end replacing the “Decree Absolute”.

In terms of the “impact”, the aim of the new system is clearly to reduce conflict and enable parties to work together in the divorce process (in the same way that they are encouraged to do so in agreeing the arrangements for their children and their financial arrangements).

In terms of streamlining the process, it has yet to be seen how this will play out. There is a concern about some new time limits that have been put in place to obtain the “Conditional Order”. The new law says this cannot be granted for 20 weeks (circa 5 months) from the divorce application. This time limit was not imposed under the old system so as practitioners, we will need to consider whether this may delay the process slightly (this being the important part of the proceedings where a legally binding consent order can be obtained). This is something that will become clearer as we adapt to the new system.

In summary, the “impact” of the new system, has really yet to be seen. We can all see and understand the reasoning behind the new system and the overhaul of the previous system is certainly a long awaited and positive step. The actual implementation of the system will however be a learning curve not only for individuals wanting to divorce under the new system, but family lawyers and the judiciary and it is certainly an interesting time for us all.


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