Ministry of Justice publish
Family court statistics quarterly: October to December 2021 today (31st March 2022)
Private law family case delays at an all-time high
Case duration has doubled in four years and is close to a year on average
Resources have been prioritised to public law (care) cases
however, neither are on child-appropriate timescales
Delays harm children and fuel family conflict
Family courts were not fit-for purpose before Covid-19
and efforts to address the pandemic backlogs have failed
The whole system needs to be re-designed with education and Early Intervention
Today (31st March 2022) the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) published their report latest Family Court Statistics Quarterly: October to December 2021 . Whilst the total number of cases eased compared to the same quarter last is down,11.8% in Private Law, looking at the whole year the reduction in applications was minor at -1.8% .
The easing-off in numbers in cases has not resulted in an improvement in timeliness of cases. The latest data shows that Private Law cases now take, on average, 44.3 weeks, double what it took four years ago. The Covid-19 has clearly been a major factor, increasing times by 16 weeks, but in reality, the figures were getting worse since 2017 and cases now take 21 weeks longer than four years ago. For the system to be fit-for-purpose, it needs to be re-designed to promote out-of-court resolution and investigations of contested facts and serious allegations need to take place within a few weeks rather than months or years.
The timeliness of Public Law (care) cases has followed a similar pattern and these now take on average 46.7 weeks, an increase of 13 weeks since the pandemic and 18 weeks longer than four years ago. The differential between Public and Private Law duration suggests that resources have been prioritised to focus on care cases. Whilst this may seem at first analysis to make sense, it does not address the harm caused when access to a parent has needlessly ceased, without interim arrangements in place and/or the children have been subjected to psychological abuse and the denigration of one parent against another. Neither does it assist when children continue to be exposed to domestic abuse by either the applicant or respondent parent.
Furthermore, at the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) open board meeting of 26th January 2022 it was reported that the Private Law cases that go beyond a first hearing now take 55 weeks and the ones involving the appointment of a Children’s Guardian, are now taking 92 weeks! 
Almost three-quarters (72.2%) of children involved in Private Law cases last year were under 10 years old. Delays of two years to determine their family arrangements are not on a child-appropriate timescale.
FNF believe that there is an urgent need for a wholesale review of family justice to focus on education and Early Intervention as identified in our paper ‘A Strategy for Separated Families’.
Chair of FNF, Paul O’Callaghan says: “The latest MoJ data makes for further depressing reading. It is scandalous that children who need the most support when their parents separate are waiting almost two years for their family arrangements to be finalised. Such delays substantially add to the harm to children and exacerbate damaging family conflict, cost to the parties and taxpayers. Conditions need to be created for out-of-court dispute resolution. Given that almost half of parents separate before their children leave school, there is a need a coherent strategy for separated families that focuses on education and Early Intervention. A failure to address these shortcomings demonstrate a flagrant disregard of the children’s best interests in whose name the courts sit. By the time they get round to make arrangements, the damage and harm to children’s wellbeing is often irreversible.”
For further information, quotations from our service users or infographics please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on 0300 0300 110.
Notes for editors:
Families Need Fathers - because both parents matter
FNF is the leading registered UK charity providing information and support on shared parenting issues arising from family breakdown, and support to divorced and separated parents, irrespective of gender or marital status. FNF is NOT a fathers' rights group - we support the best interests of children - namely mature and collaborative parenting by both parents - an objective which is inadequately promoted in the family court system and associated services.
FNF receive approximately 25,000 calls for help a year and thousands more rely on our local branch network and online support.
Our primary concern is the maintenance of the child’s meaningful relationship with both parents. Founded in 1974, FNF helps thousands of parents every year.
31st March 2022
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