The average duration of private family law cases has increased, a legal organisation has claimed, since major changes were made to the family law system last year.
In a poll of Resolution members, 40 per cent claimed private family law disputes (ie. those between individuals) now take longer to reach a conclusion.
No less than 56 per cent claimed the courts are now slower to issue legal orders and 52 per cent agreed that it takes longer for private family cases to be allocated a specific court date.
The survey was held to mark the first anniversary of the reforms, which included a mandatory 26 week timetable for care cases; a centralisation process referred to as the ‘single family court’ and compulsory ‘mediation information and assessment meetings’ (MIAMs). People planning to take a family dispute to court are required to attend the latter in order to assess whether or not their case would be suitable for mediation.
Stowe Senior Solicitor Helen Miller said:
“In my experience court schedules are now sometimes so full it can take months for the next stage in a case to be listed for a specific case. Unrepresented litigants in person can mean additional court time and this can lead to the frustration of additional costs for the represented party in a case.”
“Delays can mean that delicate family cases may sometimes take many months to resolve, and in cases involving children the courts will then have to consider whether further disruption is really in their best interests when the final hearing rolls around. The effect on the children is always the most important thing.”
“In my view, there is a danger that people will start taking matters into their own hands more and more – removing children without permission and deliberately prolonging the process to establish themselves as primary carer, then arguing that, irrespective of the rightness or wrongness of the situation, any change back to the former situation would no longer be in the children’s best interests.”
Resolution represents more than 6,000 family lawyers across England and Wales committed to “a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters.”