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Family Courts Crisis: Impact on children's wellbeing and future

Family Courts Crisis: Impact on children's wellbeing and future


Rising family court backlogs harm kids' stability, delaying justice and causing emotional distress

The family court system in the UK is facing a deepening crisis, particularly affecting children and families. Recent quarterly statistics released by the Ministry of Justice indicate a distressing trend in the delay of justice, prompting serious concerns from the Law Society of England and Wales.

Private children law cases, which involve crucial decisions about where children reside and their contact arrangements, are experiencing prolonged delays. Data from July to September 2023 shows an average waiting time of 45 weeks, an increase of nearly one week compared to the previous year. This sustained upward trajectory in waiting times has persisted for seven consecutive years.

During this period, a staggering 13,420 new private law applications were recorded, involving 19,908 individual children. Law Society President Nick Emmerson highlighted the unacceptable nature of this situation, emphasizing that over 80,000 children were caught in family backlogs last year, with similar numbers anticipated this year. The prolonged waiting periods disrupt children's lives, preventing them from having the stability crucial for their well-being.

Emmerson underscored the adverse effects of delayed justice, citing research showing that children involved in these proceedings are more susceptible to depression and anxiety. The festive season brings added distress as thousands of children are left uncertain about their future during Christmas holidays.

The Law Society urges the UK government to prioritize fixing the broken family justice system, advocating for the reinstatement of legal aid for early advice. They emphasize the need for support in resolving disputes outside the courts where feasible and providing assistance for eligible cases within the court system.

Immediate investment in early legal advice is seen as a crucial step to alleviate the mounting pressure on family courts, ensuring children and families can resume their lives without prolonged uncertainty. The call is clear: the government must address this crisis promptly to safeguard the well-being and futures of children and families in the UK.