Following Sir Mark Potter's recent comments regarding the crisis in the family courts, I requested an interview with His Honour Judge Polden, the designated Family Law Judge for Kent, on the subject. I chose him because I have always practised in Kent and therefore know something about the courts in this county. He declined the interview. Perhaps this is not entirely surprising, given the state of some of the courts over which he presides.
As I will shortly be no longer using the courts for my work, I feel I can now say something about their state. Take my local court, Medway County Court, for instance. I would not say that it was any exaggeration to state that it is barely functioning at all, with even the most straightforward matters taking months to deal with. For example, a simple application for directions in an uncontested divorce used to be dealt with within about a month. My recent experience is that it is now taking several, and I am forever having to fend off clients who are anxious for an update - I explain to them that there is little that can be done, but inevitably they seem to think it is somehow my fault. The situation seems to be getting worse: how long will such an application have to take before it can be said that the court has ceased to properly carry out its function? Six months? A year? As for more complex applications like consent orders, you may as well forget it (it takes so long, you probably will).
Like other local solicitors, I have been issuing in other courts, just to avoid the delays at Medway. Perhaps that is the plan: reduce the service to such a level that everyone goes elsewhere - problem solved!
I would be interested to hear the experiences of others up and down the country.