It comes as a surprise to no one at Maguire Family Law that new statistics show a huge increase in the volume of cases in the Family Court, with no indication that the numbers are due to reduce any time soon.
Figures released by the Ministry of Justice last week show that between April and June 2021 there were 66,357 new cases in the family courts, an increase of 14% for the same period in 2020. In fact, there was an 11% increase in private Children Act matters, 7% increase in divorce matters and a whopping 72% increase in financial remedy applications.
It would appear that Children Act cases are bearing the brunt of this extra workload that the Court is facing, as the average time for cases to conclude has gone from 13 weeks this time last year to 41 weeks!
It is not all doom and gloom though. One positive thing to come out of the statistics is that it is clear that the Court’s online divorce portal has led to a clear improvement in processing times. Paper applications took an average of 25 weeks to reach decree nisi stage, whilst those processed online were nearly twice as fast, taking an average of 13 weeks to reach the same stage.
We believe there are a number of reasons for the large influx of new divorce, children and financial family cases, with the largest being due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 2020 saw the first lockdowns hit the UK, where many couples who may otherwise have started the process to divorce and resolve financial/children matters instead waited for life to get somewhat back to normal. However, by 2021 with restrictions coming to an end, we are seeing a large increase in people seeking assistance who are almost playing “catch up”.
Our advice to clients is always the same, in that they should seek specialist family law advice as soon as they need it, and not leave things too late or to the last minute, especially when it comes to children matters. The delays faced by the Court are disappointing, and parents who are facing difficulties should keep this in mind. If you believe you are going to run into a dispute concerning your children, it may be that you need to act fast. Think there is going to be an issue with the school your child attends in September 2022? With the current delays facing the Court, you may need to issue an application to resolve this asap.
And what forecast has the Court provided moving forwards? Addressing the new statistics, they comment that:
It may be some time until improvements are seen in various timeliness measures, as outstanding cases are dealt with.
The next set of statistics will be provided in December 2021, and we anticipate they will make for similar reading. From what we have seen, the Family Court has never been busier, and it doesn’t appear to be letting up. Therefore if you need assistance, don’t wait and don’t leave it too long! The faster you get advice, the sooner we can help you resolve whatever issue you are facing.