The Law Society has renewed its call for fresh investment in the family justice system to help children left in legal limbo by worsening delays.
Data from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service shows children who have been removed from their parents by the state are having to wait an average of 46 weeks to get a final decision on where they will live. In 13 of the 42 Designated Family Judge areas in England and Wales, the wait is double the recommended government target of 26 weeks.
More than 80,000 children are presently caught up in private family law proceedings, according to court statistics. In 2022, the case duration in private family law was 44.9 weeks.
‘What is often missed in the debate around the unacceptable backlogs in our family courts is the impact on children,’ said Law Society president Lubna Shuja. 'Our members are telling us of instances where court delays are leading to increased tension between parties. This is undermining a collaborative and child-centred approach to family separation.'
Cris McCurley, a member of the Law Society’s Access to Justice Committee, said: 'The entire family courts system is creaking after years of austerity cuts and neglect. As a practitioner it is heartbreaking to have to deal with the consequences of this. There needs to be investment in the system, now.’
The Law Society is calling on the government to restore early legal advice in family law cases to help parents better understand their rights and options for resolving issues involving children. Shuja added: 'The government is focused on introducing mandatory mediation in family cases as the way to solve the backlogs in the courts, but mediation is not always appropriate.’
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