The Ministry of Justice has released the Family Court statistics for January to March 2021.
The court system seems to be maintaining its recovery from the COVID pandemic, but since the last quarterly review there has been an increase in the number of cases commenced in the Family Courts, with a rise in financial remedy applications (29%), domestic violence (15%) private law (5%) and matrimonial and adoption cases (1%).
There is improvement in the average time from a divorce petition to pronouncement of decree nisi by 1 week and from decree nisi to decree absolute of 2 weeks. The average time frame from a petition to decree nisi is 27 weeks and from petition to decree absolute is 51 weeks. The latter figure is extended by the fact that in many cases, parties have to finalise their financial agreement before applying for decree absolute.
However, the time frame from petition to decree nisi is still too long. The court is working on improving their IT systems and the online roll out is gradually eating away at the backlog. The introduction of no-fault divorce (now due April 2022) will improve the time frames for getting to the decree nisi stage (which will be called a conditional order), to 20 weeks from the date of the petition.
Thomas Mansfield Family Partner, Abigail Eriksson-Lee, commented: ‘As a firm we have seen a sharp rise in new enquiries over the last year so I am not surprised that new cases in the Family Courts have risen by 7% when compared to the same quarter in 2020. It is also concerning that the number of public law cases has fallen by 7%, with the time for care proceedings slowing to levels seen in 2012.’
Susi Gillespie, Head of Thomas Mansfield’s Family team said: ‘Whilst the court struggles with backlogs and a rise in family law cases generally, couples can eliminate the need to suffer judicial delay by mediating their family law dispute or instructing collaborative solicitors. Ultimately, the court will still need to process the petition and the final agreement (the consent order), but the bulk of the work can be kept out of the courts. Indeed, collaborative agreements are usually fast tracked to a judge for approval.’
The full report is available at Family Court Statistics Quarterly: January to March 2021