The latest Family Court Statistics Quarterly report shows that there has been an increase in the number of divorce petitions, whist the number of decree absolutes remains similar. Use of the digital service has increased significantly.
There were 30,420 divorce petitions made during January to March 2021, up 2% from the same quarter in 2020. There were 30,171 decree absolutes granted in January to March 2021, similar to the same quarter in 2020.
The report also shows that the average time for proceedings has decreased, with the average time from petition to decree nisi taking around 27 weeks in January to March 2021, which is down slightly from 28 weeks in the same quarter of 2020. The mean average time from petition to decree absolute was 51 weeks, down 2 weeks from the equivalent quarter in 2020. It is thought that the increasing numbers of divorce cases being processed digitally has helped reduce the average time of divorce proceedings.
For digital divorce cases between January and March 2021, the statistics show that there were 21,269 digital petitions made (70% of the total number of petitions, up from 41% in the same period of 2020) revealing that the number of digital cases is increasing rapidly. The digital service was also faster, with the average time to decree nisi at 13 weeks, and 22 weeks from petition to decree absolute.
The latest statistics come as an announcement was made that the implementation of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act will now be been delayed until 6 April 2022 due to the development and testing of the HM Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS) digital arm of the service. Many family practitioners and couples have expressed their dismay at the delays to the divorce reforms, particularly around the introduction of no fault divorce which would allow couples to divorce with no requirement to prove a fault-based fact against their partner.
Professionals have consequently called on HMCTS to use this delay to ensure that the digital platform is fully functional and that issues affecting the online service are rectified.
Current statistics also show that 28% of divorce petitions made between Q1 2011 and Q1 2021 reached decree nisi in the first quarter after the petition was made, with a further 38% reaching this stage within the second quarter. Over half the petitions reached a decree absolute within three quarters after petition.
The Family Court Statistics can be viewed here.