Courts disposing of fewer children and finance cases

The Ministry of Justice has published its latest statistics for the work of the Family Court, for the quarter April to June 2022.

The statistics indicate that the court is disposing of fewer private law children cases (i.e. children disputes between parents) and fewer financial remedy cases.

And these figures could have serious implications for the length of time it takes to have these cases dealt with by the court.

As to private law children cases, the number of disposals in April to June 2022 was 26,924, which was down 16 per cent on the equivalent quarter in 2021.

And whilst it is true that the number of applications was down (by 7 per cent) on the equivalent quarter in 2021, the statistics also tell us that these cases are taking much longer to be dealt with.

In April to June 2022, it took on average 46 weeks for private law cases to reach a final order, i.e. case closure. This is up 6 weeks from the same period in 2021, and the highest value since the quarterly statistics were first published in 2014.

This continues an upward trend seen since the middle of 2016, where the number of new cases overtook the number of disposals.

Moving on to financial remedy cases the statistics tell us that there were 9,239 financial remedy applications made in April to June 2022, 71 per cent of which were uncontested, and 29 per cent contested.

The total is down 31 per cent from the same period in 2021, which probably reflects the number of applications returning to pre-pandemic levels, there being a ‘spike’ last year, following the dramatic drop in applications when the pandemic first hit.

But whilst the drop in applications may be welcome, the statistics also tell us that in the quarter there were 8,253 financial remedy disposals events, which is down 26 per cent from the same period in 2021.

Unfortunately, the statistics say nothing about how long the court is taking to deal with contested financial remedy applications, but they do tell us that whilst there were 2,673 contested applications in the quarter, only 2,183 contested applications were disposed of, whether because they became uncontested or were dealt with by the court.

Obviously, having more new cases than disposals is a worrying trend, which could well result in cases taking longer.

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