The Ministry of Justice has published its annual list of the busiest divorce courts in England and Wales. In 2013, the courts with the most divorce petitions were as follows:
1. Birmingham Civil Justice Centre and Family Courts (2,655)
2. Weston-super-mare County Court (2,385)
3. Coventry Combined Court Centre (2,215)
4. Romford County Court (1,863)
5. Leicester County Court (1,780)
6. Bristol County Court (1,672)
7. Norwich Combined Court Centre (1,655)
8. Leeds Combined Court Centre (1,543)
9. Chelmsford County Court (1,542)
10. Manchester County Court (1,541)
There has been little movement in the top five positions since last year. Once again, Birmingham has the top spot, followed by Weston-Super-Mare. As before, the number of divorce petitions in Weston-Super-Mare seems disproportionately high, given that only 80,000 people live in the Somerset town. Do note that the headline figure is somewhat misleading: one of the country’s largest online divorce services is based there, with clients from all over England and Wales.
The new list has few surprises: predictably, many of the country’s most populous cities are represented. Leeds and Manchester edge onto the list this year.
A further point of similarity to last year’s list is that once again, the Ministry of Justice is drawing upon the figures to recommend that couples opt for mediation, keeping divorce “out of court”:
Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes said:
Mediation works in helping to sort out disputes over finances and children. We are committed to making sure that more people make use of it rather than go through the confrontational and stressful experience of going to court.
These figures show thousands of people are sadly still divorcing each year. We want them to do it in the least damaging way for everyone involved, especially children. That is why we want them to use the excellent mediation services available to agree a way forward, rather than have one forced upon them in the courts.
In reality, any agreement reached through mediation still needs to be formalised by the court. However it is worth noting that, according to the Ministry of Justice’s latest statistical bulletin for England and Wales, the number of family cases that started in courts dropped to around 60,000 in the last quarter of 2013, which is the lowest level in more than two years.