Divorce and other family court proceedings taking longer to resolve, warns family law expert

October 23, 2018

People petitioning for divorce should brace themselves for a longer period of delay in proceedings, as the length of time it takes courts to process them is increasing, a family law expert in Warrington has warned.

An increase of nearly one fifth in divorce cases, together with court closures, is behind a ‘worrying’ trend, which reveals Family Courts are taking longer to process all categories of cases, said Danny Hudson, partner and member of the family department at Watsons Solicitors.

The 18 per cent rise in the number matrimonial cases starting is among latest Family Court statistics published by the Ministry of Justice.

The continuing impact of the curtailment of Legal Aid has also helped to drive a doubling in the number of litigants applying to Family Courts, who are forced for financial reasons to represent themselves, the figures also show.

Overall, the number of cases starting in the family law courts was up by seven per cent.

The statistics, which cover the period April to June 2018, also reveal other worrying trends, as a diminishing number of courts in England and Wales struggle to cope with demand, said Mr Hudson.

“Eight per cent fewer care proceedings were dealt with inside the 26-week time limit. In addition, the number of orders made in relation to deprivation of liberty applications was down by one fifth, despite a 27 per cent increase in applications,” he said.

“Some good things are also happening in the family courts. Digitisation is moving apace, and the option to petition for divorce online is gaining traction, which can save time and money.

“But in the short term, there are signs that the current pace of modernisation, together with the rise in number of cases, may be contributing to the longer period of time it takes to get a result.

“Nobody relishes starting the process of applying to a family court but anyone about to enter into divorce, care, adoption, or other family court proceedings should be mindful that it is likely to take longer than it would have in the past.”

Mr Hudson added that a consultation with a specialist divorce lawyer, or expert in other aspects of family law, at the outset, could save time and unnecessary heartache for applicants.

He said: “We can explain the process to you. We also have knowledge of the workings and the case load of the local court where your application will be made, so can advise on its particular delays, including where the logjams are likely to occur.

“Talking to an experienced divorce lawyer can really help in management of expectations for both parties and leads to a faster resolution.”

Watsons Solicitors, which has been established for more than 60 years, specialises in family law, employment law, wills and probate, and conveyancing.

The team of experienced solicitors each hold various accreditations and memberships of professional bodies relevant to their expertise, while the firm’s partners oversee all areas of work.

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