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Children fall victim to growing crisis in family courts, The Law Society says

Rising backlogs in the family court system continue to delay justice for families and children, The Law Society have said.

New quarterly statistics published by the Ministry of Justice show a growing crisis in the family justice system, warns the Law Society of England and Wales.

Private children law cases – where families apply for arrangements relating to where their children live and who they have contact with – were taking on average 45 weeks during July to September 2023, up almost one week from the same period last year. This continues the upward trend seen over the last seven years.

Additionally, there were 13,420 new private law applications during this period, with 19,908 individual children involved in these applications. Law Society president Nick Emmerson said:

“There were more than 80,000 children caught up in the family backlogs last year. We are seeing similar numbers this year. It is unacceptable that thousands of children are waiting almost a year to find out who they will be living with long-term because of delays in the family court system.

Delayed justice can cause significant harm to the wellbeing of both children and parents by preventing them from having the stability they need to thrive. Research shows that children involved in private law proceedings are more likely to experience depression and anxiety.

It is especially disheartening that thousands of children will spend the Christmas holiday uncertain about their future. Children should not be paying the cost of the government’s failure to fix the broken family justice system. Legal aid for early legal advice must be reinstated so families can be supported to resolve their disputes outside court where possible, or be identified for assistance through the court system where eligible.”

Emerson continued to state that “immediate investment in early legal advice” would “help reduce the worsening strain” on the family courts and “alleviate the immense pressure so many children face”. He continued:

“We urge the UK government to stop neglecting the family justice system, so that children and families can get on with their lives.”

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