Chancellor announces £170m to reduce court delays via non-court resolution

In the Spring Budget the Chancellor announced £170m to fund non-court resolution, to cut delays in courts.

Nick Gova, partner and head of family at London law firm Spector Constant & Williams said that with nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce or separation, there is a “need to invest in processes to mitigate the impact on families”. Nick continued:

“The courts are under significant pressure, some still reeling from the impact on the service since covid. Moving matters from court as a first resort to other forms of non-court resolution, will assist parties and lighten the burden on courts, allowing them to deal with complicated cases and matters requiring intervention.

Investment in technology will facilitate quicker resolution.”

Despite this, recent figures have suggested that the number of divorces in England and Wales have fallen to its lowest rate since 1971, according to figures released last week. According to the latest ONS figures a total of 80,057 divorces occurred in 2022: 78,759 opposite sex divorces and a further 1,298 same sex divorces. That’s a significant fall from the 2021 figures of 111,934 and 1,571 respectively, and considerably down from 1993 when divorce rates peaked with 165,018 divorces granted.

Farah Nazeer, chief executive at Women’s Aid, commented on the Spring Budget and said that the government has “left the future of lifesaving domestic abuse services in doubt”. She added:

“These critical services, which provide safety and support for thousands of women and children every year, are at crisis point. For nearly a decade, these services have faced a catalogue of challenges and they are now at severe threat across the country due to local council funding cuts.

Small women’s organisations and services led ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women will be hardest hit. This will leave survivors of domestic abuse and other violent crimes facing a postcode lottery when it comes to accessing life-saving support, with women and children turned away daily at their point of greatest need.

Ahead of the general election this year, I am calling on all parties to make violence against women a national priority. It is imperative that £427m is made available to specialist domestic abuse services, annually. I am also going to continue calling for a separate, ring-fenced pot for ‘by and for’ services, to make sure their needs are met. Women’s Aid have shown that investment in these services not only saves lives, but also saves the public purse money – as much as £23 billion a year with the right investment. It is only by working together and ensuring that services can continue providing vital support to survivors, that we can hope to create a society where domestic abuse is no longer tolerated.”

Law Society of England and Wales president Nick Emmerson said that the UK government has “once again failed” to address the crisis facing our justice system. He continued:

“Small amounts of money to the family court system for early advice are welcome, but it shows the government isn’t facing up to the challenges plaguing the justice system.

Only through investment in staff, judges, legal professionals and our court buildings can the government begin to address these issues.”

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