More than 25,000 children trapped in a broken justice system

The next UK government must act to protect tens of thousands of children trapped in a family courts crisis with detrimental effects on their wellbeing, warns the Law Society of England and Wales.

According to the latest figures published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ)*, there were 27,445 children involved in new family cases between January and March 2024.

These family cases continue to be delayed at an unprecedented rate, as it takes an average of 11 months to decide where children will live and with whom they will have contact.

Law Society president Nick Emmerson said: “It is distressing that thousands of children have fallen victim to record backlogs in the family courts.

“The family courts are in a dire state. Children are forced to wait almost a year in limbo, as they are failed by a system that should aim to protect them.

“This has a damaging impact on the families and especially the children, as crippling stress and anxiety of an uncertain future is completely overlooked.**

“Our children must be prioritised by the next government. Last year saw more than 100,000 children trapped in the family courts backlogs.*** We cannot allow 25,000 more children to become collateral damage to a justice system in crisis.

“Restoring legal aid for early advice in family matters would mean more families could resolve their matters outside the courts and those who still need to go to court would be better prepared for what will happen there.

“The next government must also commit to taking forward the early advice pilot, which will help people resolve their problems earlier and therefore reduce the court backlogs.

“These measures would go a long way to relieving the pressures on the family courts and protecting children.”

Notes to editors

*Figures taken from Family Court Statistics Quarterly: January to March 2024

**For children involved in private law proceedings, rates of depression are 60% higher and rates of anxiety are 30% higher than their peers in comparison groups. See the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory statistics

***Combining both public and private law cases involving children, a total of 103,676 children were trapped in the family courts backlogs over 2023.

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Shanzeh Haque | 07706 989843 | Naomi Jeffreys | 020 8049 3928

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