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Average time for disposal of care cases continues to creep upwards

Little change in overall number of new cases started in family courts in 2017

The Ministry of Justice has published statistics relating to the family courts in the fourth quarter of 2017, October to December.

There was very little change in the overall number of new cases started in family courts in 2017 compared to 2016, with the fall in divorce numbers cancelling out the increases seen in other case types. In October to December 2017, number of cases starting in family courts fell 3% on the same period in 2016.

Over the full year, the number of public law cases starting in 2017 was up slightly (1%) compared to 2016. In contrast, the number of disposals increased by 6% to 17,343 reflecting the time lag from application to first order being made. There was no change in the number of cases started or disposed in October to December 2017 compared to same period in 2016.

The average time for a care or supervision case to reach first disposal was 28 weeks in 2017, up one week from 2016. There was also a slight increase (up half a week) in October to December 2017 compared to the same period of 2016. In 2017, 57% of cases were disposed of within 26 weeks – down 5 percentage points compared to 2016. A similar proportion of cases were disposed of in the latest quarter (56%).

The number of private law cases started increased by 5% in 2017 compared to 2016, and the number of applications also increased by 5% over the same period. For the latest quarter the increase for both was 1% compared to the same quarter in 2016. Similarly, the number of Private law cases disposed in 2017 was up 2% on 2016, with the number of disposals also up 2%.

There were 109,339 divorce petitions made during 2017, down 4% on 2016, and the lowest annual figure recorded in the years reported in FCSQ. Similarly, there were 102,883 Decrees Absolute granted in 2017, down 5% over the same period.

The number of domestic violence remedy order applications in 2017 increased by 5% compared to 2016, while the number of orders made also increased, by 8% over the same period mirroring the change seen in October to December 2017 from the same period in 2016.

In 2017, there were 5,417 adoption order applications, down 8% on 2016, whilst the number of adoption orders issued also decreased in 2017, by 7% compared to 2016. Across 2017, the quarter on quarter change in adoption orders made has been volatile with the latest quarter showing no change from the same period in 2016, which was the lowest number seen since April to June 2012.

There were 3,955 Deprivation of Liberty (DoL) applications in 2017, up 27% compared to 2016. Similarly, DoL orders were up 81% over the same period reflecting the lag in the process from application to order.

For the full statistics, click here.