Justice secretary Dominic Raab has said he wants to do something ‘drastic’ to stop up to half of family law cases reaching court.
Speaking to the justice committee of the House of Commons yesterday, Raab said cases involving safeguarding and domestic abuse, which constitute between 50% to 60% of the total, should continue to be heard by a judge.
But most of the rest should only require an out-of-court remedy, and Raab revealed talks have begun with the senior judiciary about offering greater incentives to couples to settle dispute through alternative means.
‘The vast majority of [non safeguarding and non domestic abuse cases] shouldn’t really go to court,’ said Raab. ‘It should not be so easy just to say we will go to court. These are sad and sometimes tragic family break-up matters and often involve children but we want to make better use of ADR and mediation and we need to reconcile the incentives for both going to ADR and going to court.
‘I would be in the market for something really quite drastic and bold in that area.’
According to the government’s quarterly statistics covering the period from April to June 2021, 66,357 new cases started in the family courts, up 14% on the same quarter in 2020.
This was due to increases in most case types: financial remedy (76%), private law (11%), adoption (11%) and matrimonial cases (7%). There was a 4% decrease in cases involving domestic violence.
Public law cases generally take the longest and in 2011, on average, they took nearly a year to reach a first disposal (49 weeks). This has risen markedly in recent years, from 26 weeks in 2016.
In April to June 2021, the proportion of disposals where neither the applicant nor respondent had legal representation was 38%, increasing by 24 percentage points since January to March 2013, and up two percentage points from April to June 2020.
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