Decline in Divorces but Significant Increases in Children Act and Domestic Abuse Cases
01 Apr 2020
Family Court Statistics published at the end of March 2020 show a decline in divorce petitions started and cases related to the financial arrangements after a split but there has been significant growth in other areas such as child protection and domestic abuse cases. Divorce cases completed have increased as courts aim to get rid of backlogs.
In 2019, almost 84,000 children were involved in private Children Act cases, increasing by 6.6% on the previous year. Since 2014, annual numbers have been growing. Almost 55,000 cases were started in 2019 and again numbers have been increasing since 2014.
Between 2013 and 2019, there has been an increase in domestic violence cases and, in 2019, cases started increased substantially by almost 19% and cases completed jumped by 24.6% on 2018. There is also anecdotal evidence that COVID-19 is leading to an increase in incidences of domestic abuse as tensions growing with household isolation.
The Domestic Abuse Bill returned to parliament at the start of March 2020 for its first reading, after it failed to complete its legislative passage when a General Election was called in 2019. One aim of the bill is to create a statutory definition of domestic abuse, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse. In March 2020 the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced that it had been allocated £5 million by the Treasury to pilot integrated domestic abuse courts in England and Wales. These courts will aim to provide better and more consistent support for victims in their experience of the justice system.
There are various reasons for court delays in 2018 and 2019, including a lack of judges, poor IT systems, and cuts in legal aid. Another factor, a consequence of the last reason, is the growing number of individuals representing themselves in court. Cases with litigants in person (LIPs), where at least one part has no legal representation, account for a majority of adoption cases, private law Children Act cases, and domestic violence cases. Many LIPs are new to the courts system and may not be clear about court procedures and processes and this causes some delays.
• 97% of parties in adoption cases were unrepresented
• 67% in private law cases
• 62% in domestic violence cases
More insights and analysis are in the UK Family Law Market Trends Report 2020 (6th annual edition) published by IRN Research. The report has sections on market structure, market developments and issues, key players including family law firms, barristers, and online divorce sites, market size and trends, five-year forecasts, and an opinion survey of 40 family law practitioners. Historical data and trends.