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Statistics from the Ministry of Justice this year show that divorce proceedings are taking longer. The mean average time from the date of the petition to the date of the decree nisi was 33 weeks, up 5 weeks from the same period in 2018, and the mean average time from the date of the petition to the date of the decree absolute, finalising the divorce, was 58 weeks, also up 3 weeks compared to the same period in 2018.

It has to be said that the number of cases starting in the family courts has decreased, whilst at the same time the number of cases that the courts have disposed of has increased. But the decrease was just 5% compared to the equivalent quarter last year.

The biggest fall was in ‘matrimonial’ cases, i.e. mainly divorce cases, where there were 13% fewer petitions than in the same period last year. This does seem to be a significant drop, but the reason Is that there was a surge in the number of divorce petitions in the same period last year, due possibly to the introduction of digital applications in May 2018.

The mediation statistics show an increase in mediation starts of 22% and an increase in outcomes of 13%, the latter now sitting at around half of pre-abolition of legal aid levels.

The number of Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (‘MIAMs’) increased by 14% compared to the previous year. Anyone wishing to make an application in, or to initiate, family proceedings, has to attend a MIAM’, unless there is an exemption such as mediation already having taken place. There is no obligation to use the mediator who delivers the MIAM. At the MIAM It will be considered whether the case is suitable for mediation, before making the application.

We have set up a new family mediation service in the North West of England and recommend people obtain advice from Southerns Solicitors.