Family Courts facing crisis?

In our last blog we asked if the new Single Family Court will cope with the surge in the number of parents representing themselves at court.

Since then the judiciary – in written evidence to the government about changes to public funding – warned that the rise in litigants in person is taking its toll on the court system. In its report to government, the judiciary stated: “in private law family cases, legal representatives are now described by judges as “a rarity”.

The report added: “In the family courts the judicial perception is that private law appointments where both sides are unrepresented typically take in the region of 50% longer”.

I wonder if the judges had access to the following court data secured via the freedom of information act? It shows that since changes to public funding – when the bulk of legal aid was removed from family lawyers – parents without lawyers are now the de facto majority of litigants at child-related court proceedings.

proportion-unrepresented-parties

proportion-unrepresented-parties

Away from child-related proceedings, family court data for Ancillary Relief cases shows legal representation holding steady compared to pre-LASPO. It will be interesting to see whether data for 2014 shows a similar tend towards self-representation. This could prove far more incendiary for the MoJ given the image of stay-at-home-mums asking despairing judges what “pension splitting” means.

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