Good Divorce Week – 28th Nov to 2nd Dec 2022
Good Divorce Week is an annual campaign run by Resolution, a professional body made up of family justice professionals whose aim is to resolve the legal issues faced by separating families in as amicable and constructive a way as possible, ideally out of court.
Each year Good Divorce Week has a theme, and the theme for 2022 is ‘Ending the Family Court Crisis’.
The number of cases in the Family Courts has been increasing in recent years and at the same time, there have been cuts to legal aid and court resources.
Legal professionals are finding that it is taking longer for cases to progress through the Family Courts, with hearings being delayed or cancelled at the last minute (often with not insignificant costs having already been incurred by the client), hearing dates that are much further in the future than is desirable, and delays in processing applications.
The Office for National Statistics recently revealed that 10% more divorces were granted in 2021 than in 2020, likely due to the COVID pandemic. His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service releases quarterly statistics, the latest of which is for the period April to June 2022.
In that period, for divorce and dissolution applications started under the old law the mean average time from petition to Decree Nisi (which must be obtained before a final financial order can be made) was 36 weeks which was 12 weeks longer than the same period in 2021. From petition to Decree Absolute (which finalises the divorce) was 56 weeks, 7 weeks longer than in the same period of 2021.
No-fault divorce replaced the old divorce law on 6th April 2022, and not enough time has yet passed for there to be any meaningful insight as to how long it is taking such divorces to reach a final resolution.
For the same period, it took an average of 46 weeks for private children cases to reach a final order, an increase of 6 weeks from the same period in 2021. The amount of time taken for such cases to reach a conclusion has been steadily increasing since 2016, a worrying trend when any delay could be detrimental to a child and their relationship with a significant individual in their lives.
Delays in progressing divorces and the dissolution of civil partnerships can lead to delays in reaching a resolution to matrimonial finances, which can serve to increase tension and animosity between separating parties. This in turn can impact their ability to reach an amicable solution to other issues, such as child arrangements. As a result, more financial and children cases go to court putting even more pressure on an already struggling Family Court system. Between 2011 and 2021, private children cases increased by just over 11% while matrimonial finance cases increased by just over 12%.
Good Divorce Week 2022 seeks to increase awareness of the struggles being faced by and in the Family Courts. It also highlights out-of-court options for resolving disputes and calls for government funding and support of the same.
Resolution suggests that more cases could be resolved outside of court if early legal advice was funded by the government so as to make it both more available and affordable for everyone.
Alternative dispute resolution methods include mediation and arbitration.
Arbitration is an alternative way to settle outside of court and involves the parties involved agreeing that a trained Arbitrator (third-party decision maker) can decide the outcome for them and which will be binding on the parties. Arbitration is becoming increasingly popular in the area of matrimonial finance.
Mediation is a process of resolving disputes by sitting around a table with the spouse/former partner and an independent, professionally trained mediator, acting as a facilitator to the discussions\negotiations that take place. It has been a requirement that, save for certain exceptional circumstances, an individual must show that they have at least met with a mediator, to hear about mediation and to decide if it is appropriate for them, prior to commencing child or financial proceedings in the Family Courts since 2014.
Sally Smith, Head of Family Law at Tollers is a fully trained and accredited mediator, with over 20 years mediation experience. She has undertaken hundreds of successful mediations. She is well respected locally and has over 25 years of experience as a specialist family solicitor.
If those cases that can be resolved out of court are resolved, then this would free up court time and resources to deal with other cases in a timely manner.
Talk to Tollers:
If you would like to discuss anything raised in this article or if you require assistance in resolving a dispute through mediation…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558 and our experienced Family law team will be happy to assist.
More information regarding Resolutions Good Divorce Week theme 2022 can be found here.