Family Court delays update
The combination of a high rise in couples wishing to divorce without legal representation, and court closures, is fuelling further court delays in the family justice system, new figures have revealed.
Statistics obtained from the family courts indicate that there has been an 18 per cent rise in couples seeking divorce, showing 32,230 divorce petitions in the second quarter of this year – marking the highest figure for five years. Conversely, the divorce rate fell by 4.9 per cent in 2017.
Due to recent court closures, the workload of the family courts is delaying the granting of divorces, and figures indicate that the time frame from the date of the divorce petition to the granting of Decree Nisi is currently 28.1 weeks, representing a record high.
38 per cent of cases brought before the family courts show that both parties are increasingly appearing without legal representation, which is a rise of 21 per cent since the dramatic cuts to the Legal Aid system in April 2013. This has added to the delays with an unprecedented number of parties drafting documents incorrectly.
In an endeavour to reduce the delays the Ministry of Justice has announced that they have increased the number of “sitting” days for district judges to consider divorce papers, and have recruited extra judges and magistrates.
Carol Robinson is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.