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Crisis in the Family Courts

Crisis in the Family Courts?

Crisis in the Family Courts?

Anyone who has any involvement with the Family Courts at present knows that the process can be extremely challenging.  There are long delays in processing applications and listing cases for hearings.  Shortage of court staff means that the administrative procedures have significant backlogs.  Communicating with the court office can be extremely difficult.  An additional factor is that cases involving serious risks to children, i.e. public law cases issued by local authorities, will always be given priority.  This is entirely understandable but can result in hearings in other cases, such as financial applications or cases involving contact with children, going to the back of the queue for court time or even being de-listed at short notice to make way for an urgent public law hearing.

Recent statistics indicate that family cases are taking longer than ever to progress through the court system.  In 2021 it took an average of 39 weeks to reach a final order in private law cases (cases where an application has been made by a parent or other family member).  In the first quarter of 2022 the average time to a final order in private law cases was 46 weeks and many cases take much longer than this.

The situation is highly unsatisfactory and we can only hope that there will be an increase in funding for the court system so that these statistics can improve.  However, we also need to consider whether there should be so many private law applications to the Family Court.  In the first quarter of 2021 the number of private law applications increased by 11% from the previous year.  As the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, noted in a recent interview, many former couples see the court as their ‘first port of call’ when it should be a ‘last resort’.  Many of the cases that come before the Family Court could and should have been resolved through negotiation and compromise.

The court process can often be distressing, expensive and ultimately disappointing.  The court cannot change the personality or opinions of a former partner, it can only make orders regulating some aspects of co-parenting.  A protracted dispute about who did what in the past often exacerbates an already poor relationship between parents who will need to co-parent their children for many years into the future.  In very serious cases that may be unavoidable but most cases do not fall into that category.


There are a range of ‘out of court’ alternatives available where there has been a relationship breakdown.  At Kerseys Solicitors our family solicitors are able to provide guidance on the options available and support our clients with appropriate legal and practical advice, contact our Family Team at Kerseys Solicitors in Ipswich Suffolk 01473 213311 or Kerseys Solicitors in Colchester Essex 01206 584584 alternatively visit our web site and click “Call Me Back” and a member of the team will be happy to call you.

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