Today's family court stats - Statement from Nigel Shepherd

Nigel Shepherd
Commenting on today’s family court statistics, Resolution Chair Nigel Shepherd said:

“Today’s statistics highlight a key area for concern, as they come following the introduction of centralised divorce centres through England and Wales. As a result, the vast majority of uncontested decree nisi applications are being considered by Legal Advisers, rather than district judges. We have no problem with this in principle, and recognise that, like other public services, the courts system is under significant financial pressure. We also support the government and the President of the Family Division’s aim to make divorce a more administrative process.

"However, we are concerned at reports we are receiving from members across the country that divorce petitions are being needlessly rejected. For example, one member recently reported that they had a divorce petition sent back because the unreasonable behaviour outlined on the petition was not considered ‘unreasonable' enough. Resolution members across the country are working hard to try to reduce unnecessary conflict upon separation, and our concern is that the absence of the experience of district judges could lead to avoidable delays or the introduction of unwarranted conflict into the process.

"We also know that divorce centres are under significant strain, where the number of divorce petitions has far exceeded the levels that were anticipated or planned for. The result has been that staff at the centres are simply unable to cope with the numbers of petitions coming their way, risking the creation of a significant backlog.

"Resolution is in regular contact with officials at HMCTS, and we are working to ensure these concerns are addressed. Is vital that the recent changes do not have a detrimental impact on the ability of separating couples to reach a lasting resolution, and that they are able to move on with their lives in the interests of the whole family."