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Good Divorce Week: court backlog ruining lives

Published In: Family - Divorce, Family

Good Divorce Week (28 Nov – 2 Dec), is an annual awareness campaign run by Resolution, an organisation that represents over 6500 family professionals, which helps people find a better way to divorce.

cfouple with child in the middle

Divorces are on the increase again with the most recent statistics showing 113,000 divorces in 2021 up nearly 10% on the previous year and the impact on wait times is stark. On average it now takes 52 weeks to conclude divorce proceedings. In addition, official figures show that while private children cases were down by 7% during the last year, they are taking on average six weeks longer to reach a conclusion. And estimates suggest it takes nearly two years to resolve financial matters.

That leaves many families in limbo for over a year. That has a knock-on effect on children’s schooling and family finances.

Resolution surveyed its members on the current court backlogs and found:

  • 20% said court delays caused clients to rely on benefits
  • 34% said they’d referred a client to a counsellor or therapist to help them cope with the stress of ongoing court delays
  • 90% said court backlogs were causing additional and unnecessary stress and pressure for clients

Alison Kitchman, solicitor and collaborative family lawyer at Switalskis, says: “Whilst we are generally served well by our local courts here in South Yorkshire the same cannot be said for cases further afield. Not all cases need to be in court. Our judges rely heavily on sensible lawyers bringing practical solutions to our courts.

There are other ways of dealing with issues which might be more suited to the needs of local families, such as collaboration or mediation. We offer 30-minute free advice phone calls where we can provide families with early support and details of the full range of options available to them. The court can be a blunt tool and should be used as a matter of last resort.”

Juliet Harvey, national chair of Resolution, says: “Under resourcing the family courts system is a false economy inflicting unnecessary pressure on the public purse and unconscionable stress on families at an already stressful time in their lives. A study of the impact of funding legal advice in Scotland found that, every £1 spent by government on legal aid in family cases saw a return of around £5 elsewhere.

“If the government were to focus more on encouraging early advice for separating couples and including information about all out of court options it could ease the pressure on family courts. Resolution members like Alison Kitchman are doing their best to help families achieve better outcomes and find long-lasting resolutions.”

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