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Family court business fell in three months prior to lockdown

There were 65,553 new cases started in family courts in January to March 2020, down 3 per cent on the same quarter in 2019. This is due to a 15 per cent decrease in financial remedy cases, a 14 per cent decrease in adoption case starts and a 3 per cent decrease in matrimonial case starts.

The  figures are revealed in the latest family court statistics. The period covered by the publication – January to March 2020 – is pre-Covid-19 and therefore includes only minimal Covid-19-related impact on the activities of the courts. Nevertheless, the family justice system appears to have slowed during the three months prior to the lockdown. However, the number of cases disposed of (or completed) rose overall, driven mainly by matrimonial cases, up by nearly 4,000 cases, or 16 per cent.

The average time for a care or supervision case to reach first disposal was 35 weeks in January to March 2020, up 2 weeks from the same quarter in 2019. 36 per cent of cases were disposed of within 26 weeks – down 7 percentage points compared to the same period in 2019.

The mean average time from petition to decree nisi was 28 weeks, and decree absolute was 55 weeks – both down around 5 weeks respectively when compared to the equivalent quarter in 2019. The median time to decree nisi was 20 and 38 for decree absolute respectively. It is thought that this may demonstrate the impact of the digital divorce system on the timeliness of divorce cases.

There were 29,540 divorce petitions filed in January to March 2020, down 3 per cent on the equivalent quarter in 2019. There were 27,888 decrees absolute granted in January to March 2020, an increase of 16 per cent from the same period last year.

The number of domestic violence remedy order applications increased by 12 per cent compared to the equivalent quarter in 2019, while the number of orders made increased by 8 per cent over the same period.

In January to March 2020 there were 1,083 adoption applications, down 18 per cent on the equivalent quarter in 2019. Similarly, the number of adoption orders issued decreased by 19 per cent to 1,079.

There were 805 applications relating to deprivation of liberty in January to March 2020, down 39 per cent on the equivalent quarter in 2019. However, orders increased by 41 per cent in the latest quarter compared to the same period last year.

It is expected that statistics for the period after April 2020 will show that activity in the family justice system has reduced further as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.

For the full statistics, click here.

25/6/20