Divorce and Child Arrangements Cases taking Longer

Everyone who uses the Family Court will be affected by its workload. If the court has a high workload then cases will take longer to be dealt with, and this will be to the detriment of all concerned, especially all of the children waiting for their futures to be determined by the Court.

The current state of the court workload should therefore be of interest to all who are involved in, or are contemplating, Family Court proceedings.

And the best indication of the Court’s workload is provided in quarterly statistics published by the Ministry of Justice.

The latest statistics, for the period October to December 2023, have just been published, and the news is generally quite positive.

The statistics show that during that period there were decreases in the number of case starts for most case types, including matrimonial (divorce, civil partnership dissolution, judicial separation and nullity), domestic violence, public law children cases (i.e. cases involving social services) and private law children cases. There were, however, increases in financial remedy case starts.

The number of cases that have been concluded has also increased in most areas, but there has been a decrease in public law and private law children case disposals.

Overall, during 2023, there were 251,625 new cases started in family courts (excluding adoption, for which there are no figures), which was down 4% from 2022.

All of this appears to be good news, indicating that the pressure on the Family Court, which has been so high for so long, may at last be easing.

But the most important statistics for court users relate to how long cases are actually taking.

And here the news is rather less good.

Divorce proceedings are taking longer. In October to December 2023 the mean average time from application to conditional order was 42 weeks, which was up 4 weeks from the same quarter in 2022. And the mean average time from application to final order was 69 weeks, which was up 2 weeks from the same quarter in 2022.

The news for the timeliness of private law children cases was not much better. In October to December 2023, it took on average 46 weeks for private law cases to reach a final order, i.e. case closure, which was similar to the same period in 2022. But for 2023 overall, it took 46 weeks on average for private law cases to reach a final order, compared to 44 weeks in 2022.

Unfortunately, the statistics do not include figures for the timeliness of other types of cases, but management information published by HM Courts and Tribunals Service does include figures for the timeliness of public law children cases.

Those figures show that in January 2023 public law cases were taking an average of 41 weeks to be dealt with, which went down to 38 weeks by December 2023.

So all in all, rather mixed news for users of the Family Court.

You can find the latest quarterly Family Court statistics here.

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