A recent study has revealed a significant increase in duration it takes to finalise a divorce once it has reached the courts. The statistics showed that the length of time an average divorce now takes is three weeks longer than the previous years. As a result this has caused delays within the system with an average case with represented parties lasting 23.9 weeks when compared to the 20.8 weeks it had taken in the equivalent quarter last year. In contrast, cases involving litigants in person in the first quarter of 2014 are lasting on average 32.6 weeks.
Questions have been raised as to what has warranted such substantial delays within the legal system over the previous year. The obvious answer appears to highlight the changes in law regarding legal aid. Whilst legal aid is still available in some circumstances, new legislation has severely restricted the eligibility of those able to claim financial support.
This new trend of self-representation can be seen as a reaction against what people deem as the unfairness of the divorce system following the cuts to legal aid in the majority of family law cases. It has been argued that the changes of law regarding the eligibility of legal aid have forced parties to accept unfair and unsatisfactory settlements due to financial restrictions. In this context, the increase in self-representation can be seen as an attempt by parties to achieve a fair settlement without incurring the costs of legal fees.
Whilst this may keep the costs down for those concerned about financial expenses, many individuals lack the technical knowledge required to navigate the complex legal litigation. As a result heavy delays are now being identified due to misunderstandings or clerical errors made by the parties bringing court proceedings to a near halt. These delays are not only inconvenient for those involved but also add to the stress of what is already an emotionally draining process.
If you require legal advice or assistance in relation to these matters then do not hesitate to contact our Family Team on 0845 050 1958 or email us. Alternatively call in at one of our Family Law Clinics held on Thursdays between 4.30 and 6.30 each week at our Blackburn and Burnley offices.