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Length of care proceedings begins to creep up

New cases started in family courts up 4% on a year ago

In the first three months of 2017 care proceedings, on average, took longer and fewer cases were disposed of within 26 weeks.

The Family Court statistics for January to March 2017, released by the Ministry of Justice, show that the average time for a care or supervision case to reach first disposal was 28 weeks which was up slightly on the same quarter in 2016, and at its highest level since mid-2015. 56% of cases were disposed of within 26 weeks – down 4 percentage points. 

Public law cases starting in January to March 2017 were up 6% compared to the same quarter in 2016 and case disposals up 16%. The number of court events for and the number of children involved in applications and orders made also increased over the same period.

In all there were 65,714 new cases started in family courts in January to March 2017, up 4% on January to March 2016, driven by increases in financial remedy and private law cases (up 13% and 11% respectively).

The number of private law applications increased by 11% compared to the equivalent quarter in 2016, whilst the number of disposals increased 2% over the same period. For the first time the statistics give the average time for a private law case to reach a final order. In January to March 2017, it took on average 23 weeks, down slightly on the same period in 2016. However, there are signs of a reversal in the downward trend seen since the end of 2014.

In January to March 2017, the proportion of disposals where neither the applicant nor respondent had legal representation was 34%, an increase of 20 percentage points since January to March 2013. Correspondingly, the proportion of cases where both parties had legal representation dropped by 22 percentage points to 19% over the same time period.

In January to March 2017, there were 1,465 adoption order applications, down 5% on the equivalent quarter in 2016. Similarly, over the same period the number of adoption orders issued decreased 9% to 1,417.

There were 969 applications relating to deprivation of liberty in January to March 2017, up 43% on the equivalent quarter in 2016. Deprivation of liberty orders made almost doubled between over the same period from 292 to 547.

For the full statistics, click here.