Family Courts

Justice written question – answered on 13th December 2010.

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Photo of Simon Hart Simon Hart Conservative, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the effect on the average length of time a case is in the family courts of litigants choosing to represent themselves; and if he will make a treatment.

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The Ministry of Justice has not made an assessment of the effects on the average length of time a case takes in the family courts of litigants choosing to represent themselves.

We do have information on whether or not the applicant(s) and respondent(s) in the case had a legal representative. It should be noted that parties without a recorded representative are not necessarily litigants in person.

The following table gives details of the average durations of family cases completed in the financial year 2009-10, split by case type and by whether or not the applicant(s) and respondent(s) in the case had a legal representative.

Figures are only given for the High Court and the county courts as information is not available for all Family Proceedings courts. The High Court and county courts hear almost all divorce cases, about 25% of all public law cases and about 80% of all private law cases.

Average duration of cases completed in county courts or the High Court in England and Wales between 1 April 2009 and 31 March 2010, by legal representation
Divorce Public law Private law
Legal representative Mean duration (weeks) Number of decrees absolute Mean duration (weeks) Number of orders Mean duration (weeks) Number of orders
Both applicant and respondent 55.7 40,088 54.5 680 37.8 23,738
Applicant only 44.6 44,904 36.5 46 27.9 9,280
Respondent only 59.7 2,707 56.2 2,575 44.7 3,573
Neither applicant nor respondent 34.1 28,796 34.1 81 38.6 2,710
Notes:

Figures are given where the applicant/respondent's representative has been recorded or left blank. Therefore, it should be noted that parties without a recorded representative are not necessarily litigants in person.

Divorce:

1. Figures include dissolutions of marriage or civil partnership and annulments of marriage or civil partnership.

2. The duration is calculated from the earliest recorded petition date to the earliest recorded decree absolute date.

3. Figures exclude cases where there is no record of a petition and cases where the decree absolute date is before the petition

4. Time from petition to decree absolute may be affected by the time it takes the applicant to apply for the decree absolute once the decree nisi (first order) has been issued. In normal circumstances the applicant may apply for the decree absolute six weeks after the decree nisi has been issued, but (s)he may choose to wait longer than this.

5. The mean is the total of all of the durations, divided by the number of decrees absolute.

Public and Private Law:

1. Private law refers to cases brought under the Children Act 1989 where two or more individuals, usually separated parents, are trying to resolve a private dispute about their child(ren). Public law refers to child welfare cases where a local authority, or other authorised person, is stepping in to protect a child from harm or neglect.

2. Private law includes cases where a section 8 order (contact, residence, prohibited steps, specific issue) was made or where a parental responsibility order was made. Public law includes cases where a care order or a supervision order was made. This does not necessarily mean that these were the orders applied for.

3. The durations in both case types are calculated from the earliest application date (or the date the case was transferred in to the court if that is earlier) to the date of the order event.

4. A case is defined as applicant represented if at least one applicant in the case has a recorded representative. Similarly with respondents.

5. The mean is the total of all of the durations, divided by the number of orders.

Source:

HMCS FamilyMan system

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