Family law statistics: As I reported here, the Ministry of Justice has published quarterly statistics on the work of the Family Court, for July to September 2019. The highlights included that the statistics showed an increase in the number of cases starting and an increase in the number of cases disposed of in the family courts.
In July to September 2019, 67,431 new cases started in family courts, up 1% on the equivalent quarter in 2018. This was due to a 23% rise in domestic violence cases started, along with increases in private law children (5%) and public law children (1%) case starts.
There were 62,197 case disposals in July to September 2019, up 20% on the equivalent quarter of 2018. This was due to increases in matrimonial (38%), domestic violence (33%), and private law (10%) cases reaching a final disposal, while there were decreases in adoption, public law (both 3%) and financial remedy (1%) case disposals.
The statistics also showed a decrease in the number of divorce petitions and in the average time of divorce proceedings, while the number of decree absolutes increased. Divorce petitions were down by 3% in July to September 2019 compared to the same period in the previous year. Decree absolutes granted were up 38% in July to September 2019 compared to the same period in the previous year, and the average time from petition to decree nisi decreased to 30 weeks in July to September 2019, from 31 weeks in the same quarter of 2018.
Family law statistics, Cafcass
The latest figures for public law (including care) applications and private law demand, for November 2019, have been published by Cafcass. In that month the service received a total of 1,095 new care applications, 107 fewer than in the same month last year. Cafcass received 12,395 new public law cases between April 2019 and November 2019 featuring 19,959 children; this represents a decrease of 1.6% (207) public law cases and a decrease of 4.6% (964) children.
As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 4,051 new private law cases in November, 34 more than the same month last year. Cafcass received 31,293 new private law cases from April to November 2019, which is 1,750 cases (5.9%) more than the same period in 2018.
These cases involved 46,830 children, which is 1,844 (4.1%) more children than April to November 2018. So a continued reduction in the volume of public law work and the increase in private law work slowing to a trickle. Are we, at last, turning the corner?
Family law statistics, legal aid
The Ministry of Justice has also published its quarterly statistics for legal aid. Amongst the family law-related figures was that applications for legal aid supported by evidence of domestic violence or child abuse increased by 18% compared to the same period of the previous year. This confirms what we already knew: that the rise in domestic violence cases, as mentioned above, is due to more legal aid applications being granted, which in turn is due to the relaxation in evidence requirements for legal aid, as I mentioned in my post about the Family Court statistics.
Otherwise, the legal aid statistics tell us that Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (‘MIAMs’) increased by 20% in the last quarter compared to the previous year and currently stand at just over a third of the level they were at prior to the abolition of legal aid for most private law family matters in 2013. Mediation starts increased by 20%, and are now sitting at just over half of pre-legal aid abolition levels. So better, but still some way to go to get back to where they were.
Spare a thought
And finally, while you are enjoying the seasonal festivities spare a thought for the judges and court staff who will be dealing with emergency applications over the holiday period. They will be putting their celebrations on hold to ensure that, where necessary, the wheels of justice continue to turn. Many of the matters that they have to deal with relate to the safety of people in need of the court’s protection, particularly children. The court may get a lot of bad publicity these days, but we all owe these dedicated people a debt of gratitude.
Subject to that, have a great Xmas and New Year.