Resolution comment on Family Court Statistics Quarterly

Nigel Shepherd
Commenting on the ONS’s Family Court Statistics Quarterly Nigel Shepherd, National Chair, Resolution, said:

“The latest Family Court and Legal Aid statistics, released today, contain a number of notable points.

“Firstly, the number of divorce petitions is down 10% from the equivalent point last year. This is in line with the general trends seen in recent years, and suggests that the next set of divorce statistics, due later this year, will show the total number of divorces will dip below 100,000 for the first time since the early 1970s.

“It’s also a symptom of the fact that fewer people are getting married – which in turn reflects the growing number of cohabiting couples, the fastest growing family type in the UK. Yet, bizarrely, there is still little or no legal protection for cohabitants should they separate. This needs to change.

“With regards to legal aid, despite the availability of funding for mediation, we’ve seen family mediation starts drop by nearly a quarter year on year. This is because fewer people are able to benefit from early advice from lawyers who, particularly in the case of Resolution members, will be able to provide information on mediation and other out of court options to help separating couples decide the best approach for their circumstances.

“We’ve also seen levels of legal representation continue their downward trend since the abolition of legal aid for the majority of family law, with the proportion of private cases where neither side is represented at 36% - up by 19% since the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) came in.

“As the government prepares to review the impact of LASPO, we hope they will note these figures with concern, and also the report of the Bach Commission, which recommended that legal aid for early legal help is restored to pre-LASPO levels for family law, to help separating families identify their options.”