Lack of respect is delaying the family courts

Delays getting longer caused by huge increase in scale of family breakdown

Family judges have lost authority with the general public and this is contributing to “completely unacceptable” delays in the courts and damaging children’s welfare, a Family Division judge has warned.


Mr Justice Coleridge, in a speech to the Association of Lawyers for Children, in November, said the delays are “set to get longer and, especially where children are involved, whether directly or indirectly, these delays are very damaging to their development and welfare.

“Where we will be in five years I decline to speculate.”

While a series of protocols for more efficient case management had speeded up less complex cases, there had been no improvement in the progress of more complex cases, he said.

The major cause for the increase in work was “the huge increase in the scale of family breakdown”, he said, but “the reduction in the perceived authority of the family court and the family judge” was a major contributing factor.

“And the cause is at least in part, if not in large part of our own making,” he said.

“In short the general population do not generally take our decisions seriously enough and do not obey the orders promptly and fully. And it is this attitude which leads to ever more hearings and ever more interventions by guardians, social workers, Cafcass officers and child experts of all descriptions.”

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