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Speaking to a justice committee at the House of Commons, Mr Raab explained that any cases involving domestic abuse or safeguarding should continue to be heard by a judge in the appropriate court. It’s estimated that these cases make up around 50-60% of all family law court cases.  

However, the Conservative MP for Esher and Walton also said that talks had begun on measures to free up the family courts. The aim is to encourage families and couples to resolve issues outside the courtroom.  

Between April and June 2021, there was an increase of 14% in the number of new cases in the family law courts in England in Wales – compared to the same period in 2020. Most types of dispute saw a rise, including divorce cases (7%) and adoption (11%). But making up the majority of cases was financial remedy, which increased by a huge 76%.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the rise in domestic violence reports during 2020, the number of these cases dropped by 4% in 2021 compared to the same period last year.  

Mediation could become the default

The Law Society Gazette reported that these measures could include making mediation or alternative dispute resolution (ADR) the first port of call before family law cases end up in court. Mr Raab told the committee:

“As many as half of cases should be settled through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or mediation,”

“It should not be so easy just to say, ‘we will go to court’.

“These are sad and sometimes tragic family break-up matters, and often involve children, but we want to make better use of ADR and mediation, and we need to reconcile the incentives for both going to ADR and going to court,’  

“I would be in the market for something really quite drastic and bold in that area.”

Could parents be fined for heading to court?

According to a report in the Sunday Times, there’s the suggestion that parents believed to be abusing the court system could face a financial penalty. The judiciary is allegedly considering making it easier for substantial legal costs to be awarded against parents thought to be unnecessarily taking up court time.  

However, the Law Society doesn’t believe this approach is likely to be effective – nor is it the most helpful or compassionate solution. A spokesperson said:

“The best way to keep more cases out of court and to reduce the number of inappropriate applications is not to introduce financial penalties, but to ensure that all separating couples can get legal advice and representation to guide them through the process.”

Facing a family dispute?

If you need expert legal advice you can trust, get in touch with Liverpool divorce solicitor Tracey Miller Family Law. We specialise in all aspects of family law, including sensitive cases involving children.  

We’re also a member of Resolution, which advocates for resolving family law matters in a non-adversarial way. This means we can help you find the best solution for the whole family, where children come first and the courtroom is always seen as the last resort.