The statistics show that 262,399 new cases were started by the family courts during 2018, which is an increase of 3% on 2017 figures. The increase in mainly due to the number of divorce petitions put to the courts – 118,141 – which is an increase of 8% compared with 2017. The MOJ states that the increase could be due to divorce centres processing a backlog of outstanding work early in 2018.
The final quarter of 2018 saw an increase of 6% – to 64,331 – in the number of cases put to the family courts based on 2017 figures. This increase is mainly due to a 9% increase in the number of matrimonial cases started in that quarter. 45% of new cases put to the family courts in 2018, and 44% of cases in the final quarter of 2018, were matrimonial cases. This is up from around 43% in the same periods of 2017.
The number of decree nisis made in 2018 was down 12% compared with 2017, to 91,559 and decree absolutes were down 11% to 91,961. This is likely to reflect the fact that fewer divorce petitions were started by the court is in 2017. This decrease helped to reduce the number of disposals made by the family courts to 214,209 – down 5% on the previous year.
However, the average time taken to get to decree nisi and decree absolute increased during 2018 by approximately 5 weeks, up from 29 weeks to54 weeks respectively.
Bradie Pell, head of Graysons’ family team, says:
“This is a worrying trend that is likely to be the result of courts being overly strained with court closures and budget cuts, together with the rising number of applications. The delay in obtaining decree nisi is likely to have an over-reaching effect on people settling the financial aspect of their divorce as a consent order cannot be filed at court until decree nisi has been granted.”
Author: Bradie Pell, head of Graysons’ family team