Statistics, legal aid and a helicopter: The last week in family law

The Ministry of Justice has published the latest quarterly
family court statistics, for the period July to September 2018. The statistics
show an increase in the number of cases started and a decrease in number of
cases disposed of. 66,118 new cases were started, up 1% on the equivalent
quarter in 2017, and driven by a 7% rise in matrimonial cases started. However,
there were decreases in new financial remedy (9%), public law (5%), domestic
violence (4%), and adoption (4%) cases started. There were 52,427 case
disposals, down 7% on the equivalent quarter of 2017, due to decreases in
matrimonial (15%), adoption (15%), private law (4%) and financial remedy (1%)
cases reaching a final disposal. Over the same period, domestic violence and
public law disposals were up 11% and 1% respectively. The average time from
petition to Decree Nisi was 31 weeks and Decree Absolute was 56 weeks, both up
7 weeks compared to the equivalent quarter 2017.

The latest figures for care applications and private law
demand, for November 2018, have been published by the Children and Family Court
Advisory and Support Service (‘Cafcass’), the organisation that looks after the
interests of children involved in family proceedings. In that month the service
received a total of 1,214 new care applications. This figure is 1.2 per cent
lower than November 2017. The total number of new public law cases during the
current year (since April 2018) is running at just under 2 per cent lower than
last year. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 4,111 new
private law cases. This is 9.1% higher than November 2017. The total number of
new private law cases during the current year (since April 2018) is running at
nearly 3 per cent higher than last year.

The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that the long-awaited
review of legal aid reforms will not be published by the end of this year, as
had been expected. The Ministry has said that the review is not yet complete
and will be published instead ‘early in the New Year’, putting the further
delay down to the wide-ranging nature of the review, and sheer number of
stakeholders that have submitted evidence. A spokesperson said: “We have met
with over 100 organisations and individuals since March and their views have
been extremely valuable. Legal aid plays an important role in ensuring people
can resolve their legal problems and last year we spent £1.6 billion funding
legal services for those who needed them.” It is not expected that the review
will recommend that legal aid be re-established for all private law family
matters, but it is hoped in some quarters that it will at least be
re-established to cover early advice in family matters.

The Ministry of Justice and the Legal Aid Agency have
published legal aid statistics for the quarter July to September 2018. The
statistics showed that Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (‘MIAM’)
volumes were 5% lower than in the same quarter of 2017, and that mediation
starts between decreased by 3%, and are now running at just under half the
levels they were at prior to legal aid being abolished for most private law
family matters in 2013. Applications for civil representation supported by
evidence of domestic violence or child abuse increased by 12%, and the volume
of these granted increased by 13% compared to the same period of 2017. Lastly,
745 applications for Exceptional Case Funding were received, a 17% increase
from the same quarter last year.

And finally, Tatiana Akhmedova, who is seeking to recover a
£453 million High Court divorce award from her Russian oligarch ex-husband
Farkhad Akhmedov, has had a helicopter belonging to Mr Akhmedov seized and
sold, for some £4.5 million. Mrs Akhmedova had also been hoping to seize Mr
Akhmedov’s luxury yacht, which is worth some £346 million and is currently
moored in Dubai, but a Sharia court in Dubai ignored the High Court divorce
order and dismissed her application in relation to the yacht. Mrs Akhmedova’s
advisers have indicated that they intend to continue their efforts to enforce
the divorce order, but a spokesman for Mr Akhmedov said that the net value of
the helicopter was “negligible”, and that Mr Akhmedov remains confident that he
“will continue to be successful in preventing the seizure of any meaningful
assets”.