Weekly Family Law Update October 6, 2020

Male abuse victims, statistics and unnecessary applications

Lockdown surge in male domestic abuse victims

Male domestic abuse charities have reported a rise of up to 60% in men seeking their help during the lockdown.  Respect, the helpline for male victims of domestic abuse, said it had received 13,812 calls and emails between April and July in lockdown, compared to 8,648 in the same period last year.

Respect’s Ippo Panteloudakis said:

“It was absolutely clear the lockdown period exacerbated everyone’s domestic abuse experiences.

“They were talking about increases in violence, increases in psychological abuse and becoming homeless as a result of the domestic abuse and not having anywhere to go.

“We had reports from men sleeping in their cars overnight or sleeping in their friends’ or parents’ gardens in tents.”

Pandemic causes reduction in mediation

The Ministry of Justice has published its latest statistics for legal aid, for the quarter April to June 2020. Included in the statistics are figures for family mediation, and they show a clear reduction due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The statistics show that Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (‘MIAMs’, which should be attended by anyone wishing to make an application in, or to initiate, family proceedings) decreased by 20% in the quarter compared to the previous year, and currently stand at around a third of the level they were at before legal aid was removed for most family cases in 2013. Mediation starts decreased by 31% and mediation outcomes decreased by 21%, and are both also now sitting at around a third of the level they were at before legal aid was removed.

Latest Family Court Statistics

The Ministry of Justice has also published its latest statistics for the Family Court, for the quarter April to June 2020. Amongst the main points were:

That Covid-19 and associated actions have had a substantial impact on Family Court activity. A significant decrease in most types of family justice occurred in the quarter. These reductions in new cases started is linked to Covid-19 measures undertaken by the courts.

That 56,867 new cases started in Family Courts in April to June 2020, down 13% on the same quarter in 2019. This is due to a 30% decrease in financial remedy cases, a 24% decrease in adoption, an 18% decrease in matrimonial matters and a 7% decrease in private law case starts.

That the number of domestic violence remedy order applications, however, increased by 24% compared to the same quarter in 2019, while the number of orders made increased by 17% over the same period.

Lastly, that there was a decrease in the average time for divorce proceedings. The mean average time from petition to decree nisi was 23 weeks, and to decree absolute was 47 weeks – both down 11 weeks respectively when compared to the equivalent quarter in 2019.

Unnecessary Private Law Applications

A judge has warned parties and lawyers against making unnecessary applications to the court.

His Honour Judge Wildblood QC, sitting in the Family Court at Bristol, said that in the previous month he had heard applications relating to at which junction of the M4 should a child be handed over for contact; which parent should hold the children’s passports (in a case where there was no suggestion that either parent would detain the children outside the jurisdiction; and how should contact be arranged to take place on a Sunday afternoon?

He said: “the message in this judgment to parties and lawyers is this, as far as I am concerned. Do not bring your private law litigation to the Family Court here unless it is genuinely necessary for you to do so. You should settle your differences (or those of your clients) away from court, except where that is not possible. If you do bring unnecessary cases to this court, you will be criticised, and sanctions may be imposed upon you. There are many other ways to settle disagreements, such as mediation.”