New data shows family courts crippled by delays

Backlogs and delays continue to hamper the family law courts, causing uncertainty for those involved, we said today responding to new statistics published by HM Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS).

“We are extremely concerned about the effect delays and backlogs in the family courts are having on people seeking justice,” said our president Lubna Shuja.

“Today’s data shows there is a backlog of more than 110,000 cases for the family courts, and cases are taking, on average, almost a year to complete.*

“The ones who are impacted by this delay the most are families up and down the country. Some are dealing with deeply distressing issues – securing a child arrangement order, seeking protection from domestic abuse and controlling behaviour, or finalising a divorce.

“The UK government must ensure, so far as possible, that there are sufficient fee-paid and full-time judges to deal with existing and new caseloads.

“There also continues to be a high number of litigants in person (LiPs) – people without representation in the courts system.

“This is no surprise since cuts to legal aid have driven up the number of people who have no choice but to represent themselves through often highly stressful and complex legal proceedings.

“In most cases, LiPs require more time and support from the court, which is likely to slow things down and increase overall costs. Re-instating legal aid for early advice in family cases would make a cost-effective contribution to resolving the backlogs in the family courts.

“The family courts are under immense pressure, and people with private and public law cases are experiencing unprecedented and unacceptable delays, which must be reduced.”

Notes to editors

* Data taken from HMCTS management information: September 2021 to September 2022

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