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Over 100,000 children trapped in family courts

Over 100,000 children trapped in family courts


Private children law cases are stagnant, taking over 11 months on average, leaving families in limbo

The family courts of England and Wales are grappling with a crisis as new figures from the Ministry of Justice expose a distressing reality: over 100,000 children are currently caught in the quagmire of court backlogs, left waiting for decisions that will shape their futures. This revelation sheds light on the urgent need for reform within the family justice system to ensure timely resolution and safeguard the well-being of vulnerable children and their families.

According to the latest data, private children law cases, which involve arrangements regarding residence and contact for children, are languishing with an average duration of more than 11 months—a figure unchanged from the previous year. This protracted delay means that families are left in a state of uncertainty, unable to plan for the future or provide the stability that children so desperately need.

In just three months between October and December 2023, there were a staggering 18,758 individual children embroiled in new private law applications. Throughout the entirety of 2023, a concerning total of 78,004 children were entangled in private family law cases. When both public and private law cases involving children are combined, the staggering figure of 103,676 children underscores the magnitude of the crisis gripping the family courts.

Urgent action, including a £11.3 million investment in civil legal aid, is needed to address the systemic challenges and ensure that children and families receive the support and resolution they deserve. Failure to act swiftly risks further exacerbating the plight of vulnerable children and perpetuating the breakdown of an already strained justice system.