Family court statistics, mediation and abused children: The last week in family law

The latest quarterly data on the volume of cases dealt with
by family courts, between April and June this year, with statistics also broken
down for the main types of case involved, has been published by the Ministry of
Justice. Amongst the main points are: a decrease in the number of cases started
in Family courts – 64,813 new cases started in Family courts in April to June
2019, down 5% on April to June 2018, due to a 13% fall in matrimonial cases
(44% of all case starts, mainly divorce proceedings), and a decrease in
financial remedy (5%) and Children Act – Public law (4%) cases; the average
time for a care or supervision case to reach first disposal was 33 weeks in
April to June 2019, more than two weeks up from the same quarter in 2018; and
the mean average time from the issue of a divorce petition to Decree Nisi was
33 weeks, and Decree Absolute was 58 weeks, – up 5 and 3 weeks respectively
compared to the equivalent quarter in 2018. There was an increase in the number
of private law children applications issued in the period, and the time taken
by such applications to reach a final order averaged 28 weeks, up 3 weeks from
the same period in 2018.

The statistics also showed that in April to June 2019, the
proportion of private law children cases where neither the applicant nor
respondent had legal representation was 39%, increasing by 25 percentage points
since January to March 2013, before legal aid was removed for most such cases.
Correspondingly, the proportion of cases where both parties had legal
representation went from 41% in January to March 2013 to 18% in April to June
2019.

The Ministry of Justice has also published statistics
relating to family mediations, for the quarter April to June 2019. These showed
that the number of Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (which should
be attended by anyone wishing to make an application in, or to initiate, family
proceedings) increased by 14% compared to the same period in the previous year,
and currently stand at just over a third of the levels they were at before
legal aid was removed. The mediation statistics also showed an increase in
mediation starts of 22% and an increase in outcomes of 13% compared to the same
period in 2018. The number of mediation outcomes is now sitting at around half
of what it was before legal aid was removed.

And finally, a poll has shown that parents caring for
children who have experienced trauma have been forced to take their children to
see the parent that abused them, with nearly all asserting this should be
illegal. The survey, carried out by the Centre of Excellence in Child Trauma
(CoECT), leading UK experts in the field of therapeutic parenting strategies,
received 1,125 responses from parents who have adopted, fostered, or cared for
children who have experienced trauma. Over half (53%) of the parents surveyed
have had to take their child to see a parent that has abused them. With 85% of
parents believing it should be illegal for abusive parents to be guaranteed
contact time. The current legal position is that children’s wishes should be
taken into account but will not ultimately determine what happens. The courts
view contact as being in the best interests of the child and see both parents’
involvement as a benefit to the child’s welfare. Sarah Naish, CEO and Founder
of CoECT said: “You would not expect to meet your rapist once a month for a cup
of tea, so why do we force children to keep seeing their abusers? Looking at
the poll alone, this is evidence that over 500 children have been marched back
to visit their abusers, which is an absolute disgrace. From the stories I hear
on a daily basis this is the tip of the iceberg and something needs to be done.
This should be regarded as one of the biggest scandals that still exists in the
British legal system today. The legal view that contact with parents is
beneficial to a child’s welfare becomes absolutely ridiculous when that parent
is the one that abused them. The parents I speak to dedicate their entire
beings to try and heal the children they have to care for, only for them to be
the adult that has to march their child back to the person that abused them.
The government needs to take action on this and ban parents that have abused their
children from having contact with them.”