Here’s to a better future in 2021…

As we are sure all will agree, 2020 has been an awful year for everyone. Thankfully, however, there is reason to hope that 2021 will be much better.

And so it is in family law.

The pandemic and resulting social distancing rules hit the family justice system, just as it did every other aspect of society. Court buildings were closed, and judges and court staff had to rapidly adjust to the widespread use of remote hearings, via telephone or the internet.

Whilst the family courts and all involved in the family justice system rose heroically to meet this enormous challenge, inevitably the same volume of hearings could not be dealt with, leading to an increasing backlog of cases.

And justice delayed is a tragedy for all of those families affected, who cannot move on with their lives. This is especially so for the children who have to wait for major decisions to be made about their lives.

But, as with life generally, there is reason to hope that things will be better next year.

Firstly, as we reported here just last week, plans are already afoot to catch up with the backlog of cases. It is, of course, a huge task, and it may well not be completed next year, but hopefully during 2021 there will be a significant improvement in the length of time that it takes for cases to be dealt with.

Another reason for an improvement is that hopefully many court buildings will be reopening, as the danger from the pandemic subsides. This will obviously mean that it will be possible for more hearings to take place in court, rather than remotely.

And it is not just recovery from the pandemic that we can look forward to. There are other reasons to hope for a better family justice future next year.

In particular, no-fault divorce is expected to be enacted in the autumn, the biggest reform to our divorce laws for fifty years. At last we will do away with the need to hold the other spouse responsible for the marriage breakdown in order to get a divorce, and instead be able to concentrate on resolving the important issues such as child arrangements and finances, in a blameless atmosphere.

We wish all who are reading this a safe and happy Christmas, and a better future in 2021.

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