New statistics show greater court delays. “Why are we waiting?”
Posted on: November 12th, 2022
“New statistics show greater court delays, we discuss why and the impacts it has on families in Melanie’s blog titled
“Why are we waiting?”
New statistics published by HM Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS) indicate that the family courts are crippled by delays and backlogs, which ultimately is impacting upon families that are going through extremely stressful and distressing issues. Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in these delays over the last few years, and these delays are likely to continue to rise. With a continued lack of funding, along with the added strains due to the recent pandemic and current economic crisis, it is of no surprise to lawyers who deal with these matters, that the court are under such immense pressure, and that people with both private and public family issues are experiencing these considerable delays when they require the assistance of the court.
HMCTS have reported that the data shows there is a backlog of over 110,000 cases within the family courts and that these cases are taking, on average, almost a year to complete. In my experience, often cases are going beyond a year to finalise, leaving families in abeyance and continued suffering, which is simply unacceptable. The rise in family cases can be attributed to a number of causes, however, it should be noted that the court has had issues with delays for a considerable amount of time.
There is limited government funding within these areas of law, legal aid is not so readily available as it was previously.
The global pandemic has a lot to answer for an increase in the breakdowns of families, whereby people were forced to spend more time in the home, putting many people at risk from abusive partners, as well as putting strain on relationships, mental health and all aspects of daily life.
Since the pandemic, there has also been the added impact of the cost of living crisis, resulting in those families on a low income being placed under even further strain. The uncertainty over the pandemic, and the cost of living crisis has certainly caused a backlash and a rise in family cases that have needed court intervention.
Unfortunately, whilst the lack of funding has been ongoing for a considerable number of years, no on
e, including the court, anticipated the global pandemic and thereafter such significant rises in the cost of living, and could not, therefore, prepare for the influx of family cases that we are now dealing with.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of funding, and those eligible to apply for legal aid being so limited, parties are forced to act in person and represent themselves. Ultimately, this impacts on the court, as those acting in person require further explanation, given that they have not had the benefit of taking legal advice prior to a hearing. This then has a knock on effect as the Judge who has to deal with the matter needs more time to deal with each case, time which they are simply not afforded. We already see full court lists and Judge’s being asked to deal with an increased number of hearings, with an already full diary.
Giving sympathy to the court, we also need to consider the great impact that this is having upon families, and certainly those on a lower income who are already financially impacted by the pandemic and cost of living crisis. Parties who have separated and require assistance in respect of child contact issues, protective injunction applications and divorce and financial issues, ultimately, are not getting the assistance they require, and are not able to obtain legal advice as they simply cannot afford it. Those dealing with these issues are waiting in lengthy delays between court hearings before their matters are resolved, causing these unfortunate families to have no other option but to put their lives on hold and wait due to these delays.
At Cygnet Law we offer advice and assistance to those suffering from relationship breakdowns and appreciate the difficult and stressful circumstances in, which people require our support and attempt to minimise the impact of these proceedings. We are able to assess a person’s eligibility for legal funding and provide legal advice within a free initial appointment and thereafter, help by offering advice and guidance throughout the process, dealing with matters swiftly, and attempting to prevent matters requiring court assistance if at all possible.
Blog prepared by Melanie Wood, Chartered Legal Executive
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