Family and children

Spike in ‘no-fault’ divorce applications

Newly published statistics for April 2021 to April 2022, show more than 12,000 new divorce applications were filed as ‘no-fault’ divorce came into effect.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 means divorcing couples are no longer required to assign blame for the breakdown of their marriage.

There were 12,978 new divorce applications in April 2022. 10,207 of which were sole applications and 2,771 were joint applications.* By comparison, there were 6,764 digital divorce applications in April 2021.

Law Society vice president Lubna Shuja said: “These figures reflect the ‘bulge’ we expected as the new law came into effect.

“By not having to prove a fault-based fact against their ex-partner, separating couples and their children will not have to suffer unnecessary conflict and anxiety.

“We will continue to monitor the new law and any future statistical reports and will feed this back to our members.”

The civil law courts are also facing delays and backlogs.

Most recent figures show there are 22,776 outstanding public family law cases, with care and supervision cases taking 50.4 weeks to come to conclusion.

114,994 civil claims were received in April 2022, with small claims cases taking 50.4 weeks to reach the first full hearing.

Lubna Shuja added: “We have persistently voiced our concern about the significant backlogs in the family courts – which pre-date the pandemic. Delays can cause significant harm as well as uncertainty for the parties involved.

“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. All courts in England and Wales are now operating at full physical capacity – yet the backlogs are still very high.

“We have repeatedly said early legal advice for family law cases should be restored.**

“By restoring early legal advice for family law cases, fewer cases will go to court. Instead, solicitors could assist negotiated settlements, referral to mediation and better manage client expectations.

“The family courts are under immense pressure, and people with private law cases are experiencing unprecedented and unacceptable delays.

“A thorough investigation should be conducted on the effective operation of the courts, the increase in backlogs and the impact this is having on families having to represent themselves.”

Notes to editors

* Separating couples can now file a joint application for divorce (previously only one person could file for divorce)

** Early legal advice for family cases was cut by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) in 2013

The five grounds for divorce were: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation with consent and five years’ separation, with no consent necessary. Find out more about getting a divorce.

Read about the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act

Find out more about HMCTS Management Information – April 2021 to April 2022

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