Are family courts reaching crisis point?

Concerns are increasing as a result of the latest Government figures which highlight the rising number of private law cases and litigants in person. This all adds to recent warnings from the legal profession about the family justice system. Ministry of Justice figures show 13,029 new private law applications were made between April and June this year, a 3% increase on the same period last year. Neither the applicant nor respondent were represented in 36% of cases, compared with 34% in the previous year. It is said that ‘even a little’ publicly funded advice at the outset could signpost parties towards mediation, or enable them to be provided with information which would help them to settle their case. The former chair of family law body Resolution called for an ‘urgent impact assessment’ to see whether some limited funding for initial advice should be reintroduced. The 13,029 new private law applications between April and June involved 28,278 children. Recently, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, told the House of Commons justice committee that the rise in private law cases was ‘deeply worrying’. Suggested solutions included reverting back to the old legal aid system or, as is done in California, consider providing a lawyer in court who can advise on an employed basis.

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M Rose

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