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Court delays causing divorces to take 52 weeks

Delays are causing considerable issues for families and children

New figures reveal that the number of divorces rose by 10% in 2021, but the spike in numbers has triggered court delays, leading to each divorce taking an average 52 weeks to conclude.

According to new research* by Resolution, the association of 6,500 family justice professionals promoting a non-confrontational approach to resolving family issues and campaigning for a fairer family justice system, 20% of people going through a divorce are having to rely on benefits because of the court delays, and 90% of divorce lawyers say the court backlogs are causing additional and unnecessary stress and pressure for their clients.

“The court backlogs are causing considerable issues for families,” says Hollie Orgee, an associate in the top-ranking Family Law team at Lodders.

Speaking as this year’s Good Divorce Week (28 November to 2 December 2022), an annual awareness campaign run by Resolution, got underway, she added: “The number of divorces in 2021 were up by 10% to 113,000.

“Even couples who want to separate amicably are having their patience and continued relationship tested to breaking point by the long delays in the courts now processing divorces.”

Impact on children

The official figures also show that while private children cases were down by 7% during the last year, they are taking on average six weeks longer to reach a conclusion. Estimates suggest it takes nearly two years to resolve financial matters, leaving many families in limbo and a knock-on effect on children’s schooling and family finances.

“When it comes to sorting out children arrangements and finances after divorce, the situation is bleak,” says Hollie. “Children are waiting nearly a year for the courts to determine which parent they live with, what school they go to, and how much time they spend with the other parent – putting the whole family’s life on hold and creating situations where children might not see the other parent for a significant period of time. This is simply unacceptable and why getting early professional advice is so important for families.”

Ending the Family Court Crisis

Lodders is supporting Resolution’s Good Divorce Week, the theme for which is ‘Ending the Family Court Crisis’: “The week is important in many ways, but this year particularly so it casts a spotlight on the reasons why the government must support better advice for separating couples and their families,” says Hollie.

Of the Awareness Week and the exclusive research, Juliet Harvey, national chair of Resolution, said: “Under resourcing the family courts system is a false economy inflicting unnecessary pressure on the public purse and unconscionable stress on families at an already stressful time in their lives. A study of the impact of funding legal advice in Scotland found that every £1 spent by government on legal aid in family cases saw a return of around £5 elsewhere.

“If the government were to focus more on encouraging early advice for separating couples and including information about all out-of-court options, it could ease the pressure on family courts. Resolution members like Lodders are doing their best to help families achieve better outcomes and find long-lasting resolutions.”

Lodders Family Law team is consistently recognised for its experience and expertise across the spectrum of family law, placed Band 1 in Chambers & Partners and Tier 1 by the Legal 500.  Headed by Partner Beverley Morris, the team focus on expertise in their field of work, high levels of discretion and personal service, in the pursuit of a fair outcome for clients and using alternative dispute resolution be it mediation, arbitration or private financial dispute resolution hearings, to try and achieve settlement and avoid court processes.

Survey findings:

Resolution surveyed its 6,500 members on the current court backlogs and found:
• 20% said court delays caused clients to rely on benefits
• 34% said they’d referred a client to a counsellor or therapist to help them cope with the stress of ongoing court delays
• 90% said court backlogs were causing additional and unnecessary stress and pressure for clients

For information about Resolution Good Divorce Week, see: Good Divorce Week 2022 – Ending the Family Court Crisis | Resolution

*Source: https://resolution.org.uk/campaigning-for-change/good-divorce-week-2022-ending-the-family-court-crisis/template-press-release-good-divorce-week-2022/

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