A recently announced drop in the number of private family law cases could indicate that families are ‘giving up’ on the courts, lawyers have claimed.
Recently published statistics from court advisory service Cafcass published new statistics showing that the number of private family cases involving children dropped by a substantial 36 per cent in the 12 months to July. Examples of such cases include divorce, residence and contact hearings.
The number of such cases being referred to Cafcass fell from October of last year onwards, the statistics show, with fewer cases than in the same months the previous year.
Naomi Angell is chair of the family committee at the Law Society.
Meanwhile, Simon Bethel is chair of Resolution’s children’s committee.
The Law Society represents solicitors across England and Wales, while Resolution represents family lawyers “committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes”.
The pair cited sharp cuts to legal aid introduced last year.
Simon Bethel said separating parents were getting lost when seeking assistance.
“Rather than receiving expert help to try and secure working shared care arrangements for their children, they are giving up.”
Naomi Angell, meanwhile, said many separating parents do not realise that legal aid remains available for mediation.
The incidence of child abduction was likely to increase, she added.
“We were always worried that the cuts would mean that out of desperation people would take things into their own hands. I am absolutely certain that children are being denied access to their parents – which seriously undermines the concept of shared parenting being introduced by the Children and Families Bill.”
Referrals to family mediation referrals have fallen by 38 per cent since the cuts in legal aid.