Are we getting more litigious in family cases?

The Green Paper on legal aid suggests that legal aid has encouraged too much litigation but provides no evidence to support that assertion. Having blogged already on this in the context of personal injury cases generally and specifically in relation to cases being brought against schools, I came across data on recent trends in the family court one of the areas to be hit most significantly by the legal aid cuts on the Ministry of Justice Website. Rather than editorialise let me set out the data graphically and allow readers to make up their own minds.

The first graph considers disposal of ancillary relief applications.

Next let us consider the number of domestic violence applications made.

Now let us consider the private law children applications. Here the data is recorded as number of children involved in private law applications.

Finally, for completeness, let us consider public law cases (driven not by ‘private’ litigants but by decisions of local authorities – and where legal aid is not to be withdrawn).

The results (with some more detail) are summarised in the following table. I have calculated the overall change in each application or order type across the three years and an average quarterly change.

Overall Change Average Quarterly Change
Dissolution of marriage – Petition filed

6%

1%

Dissolution of marriage – Decrees nisi

7%

1%

Dissolution of marriage – Decrees absolute

-5%

0%

Nullity of marriage – Petition filed

23%

3%

Nullity of marriage – Decrees nisi

-9%

2%

Nullity of marriage – Decrees absolute

-37%

-4%

Judicial separation – Petition filed

-43%

-5%

Judicial separation – Decrees granted

-26%

-2%

Disposal of ancillary relief applications – Uncontested

-16%

-2%

Disposal of ancillary relief applications – Initially contested, subsequently consented

-11%

-1%

Disposal of ancillary relief applications – Contested

-32%

-3%

Disposal of ancillary relief applications – Total

-16%

-2%

Disposal of contested or initially contested ancillary relief cases – In respect of child(ren)

-4%

0%

Disposal of contested or initially contested ancillary relief cases – Not in respect of child(ren)

-28%

-3%

Disposal of contested or initially contested ancillary relief cases – Total

-16%

-1%

Domestic Violence applications made – Non-molestation

14%

2%

Domestic Violence applications made – Occupation

-19%

-2%

Domestic Violence applications made -Total

3%

1%

Domestic Violence orders made – Non-molestation

15%

2%

Domestic Violence orders made – Occupation

-30%

-3%

Domestic Violence orders made -Total

5%

1%

Number of children involved in Public Law applications made in FPCs

11%

2%

Number of children involved in Public Law applications made in county courts

11%

1%

Number of children involved in Public Law applications made in the High Court

0%

3%

Number of children involved in Public Law applications made in the all tiers of court

11%

2%

Number of children involved in Private Law applications made in FPCs

-17%

0%

Number of children involved in Private Law applications made in county courts

14%

1%

Number of children involved in Private Law applications made in the High Court

0%

2%

Number of children involved in Private Law applications made in the all tiers of court

8%

1%

I’d be very interested in comments from practitioners and others on these trends. Some types of case appear to have risen modestly, others to have declined. Are there explanations for these changes that it is worth exploring?

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About Richard Moorhead

Director of the Centre for Ethics and Law and Professor of Law and Professional Ethics at the Faculty of Laws, University College London with an interest in teaching and research on the legal ethics, the professions, legal aid, access to justice and the courts.
This entry was posted in Compensation Culture, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Are we getting more litigious in family cases?

  1. Pingback: More evidence on our overly litigious society | Lawyer Watch

  2. Pingback: Compensation Culture FactCheck InPerspective | Lawyer Watch

  3. Pingback: More litigious? Civil cases in County Court | Lawyer Watch

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