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Public law application statistics UK

Public law application statistics UK


Court Statistics UK

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Matters affecting children: Private Law applications

Public law application statistics are shown in Tables 2.1 to 2.3.


Private law cases are those brought by private individuals, generally in connection with divorce or the parents’ separation. Order types include parental responsibility, ‘Section 8’ orders (referring to the relevant section of the Children Act 1989), financial applications and special guardianship orders.

Parental responsibility

Section 3(1) of the Children Act 1989 defines parental responsibility as "all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property". Parental responsibility allows parents to make important decisions about their children’s lives.Judicial and Court Statistics 2010 | Chapter 2 41

Section 8 orders include

residence – settles where the child should l ive and can be made in favour of ••anyone except a local authority. A residence order also gives the person named in the order parental responsibility for the child.

contact – this order requires the person with whom the child lives to allow ••the child to have contact with the person named on the order. It can be granted to anyone except a local authority.

prohibited steps – this order can be used to direct someone not to take ••specific action in relation to the child without the consent of the court. It could be used, for example, to stop a parent from moving the child to another country.

specific issue – this order determines specific aspects as to the child’s ••upbringing, for example, which religion s/he should be brought up in.

Special Guardianship

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 introduced special guardianship orders, which give the special guardian legal parental responsibility for the child without taking away parental responsibility from the birth parents. This means that the child is no longer the responsibility of the local authority. The special guardian takes responsibility for all the day to day decisions and only needs to consult with the birth parents in exceptional circumstances.

In 2010, there were 122,800 children involved in private law applications, a decrease of 11 per cent compared with 2009 when there were 137,500, and a return to the level seen in 2008 (Table 2.1).

Within the overall figures for 2010, applications for contact orders decreased by 13 per cent, applications for residence orders decreased by ten per cent and applications for prohibited steps orders decreased by three per cent, compared with 2009 (Table 2.3).Family matters | Chapter 2 42

Children involved in Private Law applications, by tier of court, 2006-2010

Private law application statistics are shown in Tables 2.1 to 2.3.

Disposal of Public and Private Law applications

A new compilation methodology has been introduced for the public and private law disposals data for 2008 onwards, and previously-published statistics for 2008 to 2009 have been revised as a result – further details are in Annex A.

There are four ways in which an order can be disposed of:

withdrawn applications – applications can only be withdrawn by order of the ••court

order refused – in public law proceedings an order is refused if the grounds ••are not proved and the court has dismissed the application. In private law proceedings the court may refuse to make an order or make an order of no order

order of no order – this is made if the court has applied the principle of non-••intervention under section 1(5) of the Act. This provides that the court shall not make an order unless it considers that doing so would be better for the child than not making an order at all

order made.••140,000020,00040,00060,00080,000100,000120,00020092010200620072008Number of children involvedFamily Proceedings CourtsCounty CourtsHigh CourtsJudicial and Court Statistics 2010 | Chapter 2 43

In 2010, there were 24,400 children involved in disposals of public law cases, an increase of 14 per cent from the revised figure for 2009 (21,300). Just over a third of all the public law disposals were for care and substitute supervision for care orders (8,500).

There was a seven per cent increase in the number of children involved in disposals of private law cases – from the revised 151,300 for 2009 to 162,500 in 2010. The majority of these disposals were for contact orders (95,500).

Public and Private law disposal statistics are shown in Table 2.4.

Statistics on the time taken to complete care and supervision cases in the family courts of England and Wales is published in MoJ’s bulletin ‘Court Statistics Quarterly’. The relevant table gives summary statistics showing the time, in weeks, between the date an application for a care or supervision order was lodged and the date a care, supervision, or other substantive order was made in the case, for those cases disposed of during each quarter from quarter 2 (April- June) 2010. The bulletin can be found on the MoJ website at:


Matrimonial matters

There are two ways to dissolve a marriage. The vast majority is with a decree absolute of divorce, which ends a valid marriage. The other is a decree of nullity, which declares that the marriage itself is void, i.e. no valid marriage ever existed, or voidable, i.e. the marriage was valid unless annulled. No petition may be made for divorce within the first year of marriage.


To obtain a decree of divorce the marriage must be proved to have broken down irretrievably. This must be done on proof of one or more of the following facts:

(a) adultery

(b) behaviour with which the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live

(c) desertion of at least two years

(d) two years separation where the respondent consents

(e) five years separation without consent.


A void marriage is one that is legally invalid because, for example:

(a) either party was under the age of sixteen at the time of the marriageFamily matters | Chapter 2 44

(b) either party was already married

(c) the parties are prohibited from marrying, for example father and daughter.

Examples of voidable marriages are those:

(a) not consummated due to incapacity or wilful refusal (most nullities are on these grounds)

(b) where one party was suffering from a venereal disease in a communicable form, or was pregnant by someone else at the time of marriage.

There were 133,500 petitions filed for dissolution of marriage in 2010; a slight increase of one per cent compared to 2009 and a continuation of the upward trend seen in 2009 (Table 2.5).

The number of decrees absolute granted for dissolution of marriage increased by five per cent, from 115,200 (revised) in 2009 to 121,300 in 2010, which now reflects a reversal from the recent downward trend as seen for petitions.

Please note that the matrimonial matters statistics for 2009 in Table 2.5 are subject to revision following the detection of a data inputting error at Bristol county court. Please see Annex A for more details.

Dissolution of Marriage: Petitions and Decrees Absolute Granted, 2006-2010160,000140,000020,00040,00060,00080,000100,000120,00020092010200620072008Number of casesDecrees absolutePetitionsJudicial and Court Statistics 2010 | Chapter 2 45

Statistics on the number of divorces occurring each year in England and Wales are also published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Please see Annex A for more explanation of the differences between the ONS figures and the statistics presented here.

Judicial Separation

An alternative to divorce is a decree of judicial separation. This does not dissolve the marriage but absolves the parties from the obligation to live together. This procedure might, for instance, be used if religious beliefs forbid or discourage divorce.

In 2010 there were 300 petitions filed for judicial separation, a decrease of 17 per cent compared with the previous year, and continuing the steady downward trend.

Table 2.5 shows summary statistics on matrimonial proceedings from 2006 to 2010.

Ancillary relief

During or after a divorce, the annulment of a marriage (nullity) or judicial separation, there may still be a need for the court to settle disputes over money or property. The court can make a financial order. This is known as ancillary relief and may deal with the sale or transfer of property, maintenance payments (for example weekly or monthly maintenance), a lump sum payment and/or a pension sharing or attachment order.

In 2010 a total of 82,300 applications for ancillary relief were disposed of; an increase of 3 per cent from the 79,900 recorded for 2009. Of the disposals made in 2010, the majority (73 per cent) were not contested (Table 2.6), while a further 22 per cent of orders were made by consent after initially being contested. Most disposals made in 2010 were for property adjustment orders (26,900) or lump sum orders (24,700).

Over half (55 per cent) of those cases which were contested or initially contested were in respect of one or more children (Table 2.7).

The numbers of disposals for ancillary relief applications are shown in Tables 2.6 and 2.7.

Other orders for financial provision are not dependent upon divorce proceedings and may be made for children.

The Child maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 led to the creation of the Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission (CMEC) which replaced the Child Support Agency (CSA), although the CSA retained its existing caseload. The Act also removed the requirement for all parents in receipt of benefit to go through the CMEC even if they could reach agreement. Parents who were not on benefit Family matters | Chapter 2 46

were previously allowed to come to courts for consent orders. This change is likely to increase the number of parties that come to court for maintenance consent orders.

Domestic violence

Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996 provides single and unified domestic violence remedies in county courts and magistrates’ courts, with the vast majority carried out in the former. A range of people can apply to the court: spouses, cohabitants, ex-cohabitants, those who live or have lived in the same household (other than by reason of one of them being the other’s employee, tenant, lodger or boarder), certain relatives (e.g. parents, grandparents, in-laws, brothers, sisters), and those who have agreed to marry one another.

Two types of order can be granted:

a non-molestation order, which can either prohibit particular behaviour or ••general molestation;

an occupation order, which can define or regulate rights of occupation of the ••home.

Where the court makes an occupation order and it appears to the court that the respondent has used or threatened violence against the applicant or child, then the court must attach a power of arrest unless it is satisfied that the applicant or child will be adequately protected without such a power. In July 2007, section 1 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 came into force, making the breach of a non-molestation order a criminal offence. A power of arrest is therefore no longer required on a non-molestation order but instead include a penal notice.

The court may also add an exclusion requirement to an emergency protection order or interim care order made under the Children Act 1989. This means a suspected abuser may be removed from the home, rather than the child.

Please note that the statistics presented in this report relate to applications for, and grants of, the above domestic violence order types by the family courts. They do not relate to prosecutions or convictions for criminal offences regarding matters of domestic violence, nor do they cover prosecutions or convictions for breaching a non-molestation order.

Applications made in the county courts for domestic violence remedies decreased by eight per cent in 2010 compared with 2009; from 26,000 to 23,900 applications (Table 2.8).

Within this overall decrease, applications for non-molestation orders decreased by six per cent (from 18,900 to 17,800), while applications for occupation orders decreased by 14 per cent (from 7,100 to 6,100).Judicial and Court Statistics 2010 | Chapter 2 47

A total of 24,100 domestic violence orders were made in county courts in 2010, a decrease of three per cent from the 24,900 made in 2009 (Table 2.9). As the breach of a non-molestation order was made a criminal and arrestable offence from July 2007, with the power of arrest inherent within it, it became no longer necessary for courts to attach a separate power of arrest to these orders.

Statistics on domestic violence applications and orders made are shown in Tables 2.8 and 2.9.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders

The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 came into force on 25 November 2008. The Act amended Part IV of the Family Law Act to enable 15 designated county courts (as well as the High Court) to make Forced Marriage Protection Orders to prevent forced marriages from occurring and to offer protection to victims who might have already been forced into a marriage. Statistics for these orders are presented in this volume for the first time in Table 2.10.

A total of 217 applications for an FMPO have been made since their introduction up to the end of 2010, with 257 orders made in the same period. The number of orders made generally exceeds the number of applications as FMPOs are sometimes made during the course of applications for other family orders, and there is no differentiation between interim orders and final orders.


The Probate Service forms part of the Family Division of the High Court. It deals with ‘non-contentious’ probate business (i.e. where there is no dispute about the validity of a will or entitlement to take a grant), and issues grants of representation – either probate (when the deceased person left a valid will) or letters of administration (usually when there is no valid will). These grants appoint people – known as personal representatives – to administer the deceased person’s estate.

The Probate Service is currently made up of the Principal Registry in London, 11 District Probate Registries and 18 Probate Sub-Registries throughout England and Wales. There are also a number of Probate offices which are opened between once a week and once every two months to provide a local service for personal applicants.

In 2010, 246,600 grants of representation were issued; down from the 254,200 grants issued in 2009, and 21 per cent down from the peak of 311,100 seen in 2006.

In 2010, 88,400 of the grants were personal applications and 158,200 were made by solicitors. In 84 per cent of all cases for 2010 (206,500) the deceased left a will.

Summary caseload statistics for the Probate service are shown in Tables 2.11 and 2.12.Family matters | Chapter 2 48


Table 2.1

Family matters

Matters affecting children: Number of children involved in Public and Private Law applications, made in each tier of court, 2006–2010 1, 2

Number of children


Public law

Private law 3

FPC 4, 5






















































HMCTS FamilyMan system and summary returns


Abbreviations: FPC = Family Proceedings Court, CC = county court, HC = High Court

1 Figures relate to the number of children subject to each application

2 Figures have been rounded to the nearest ten. Totals may not add up due to rounding

3 Private Law applications exclude adoptions

4 There are known data quality problems with the figures for the Family Proceedings Courts. A new data collection method, introduced in April 2007, has made some improvements to the completeness of data

5 Special Guardianship Orders figures in the Family Proceedings Courts are only available for those courts which share premises and administrative systems with county courts. The total has therefore been estimated based on the proportion of the total public law and private law applications made in each tier of court




Please look at the info in these two pdf documents.


Family Justice Children’s Proceedings – Review of Public and Private Law Case Files in England & Wales

Ministry of Justice UK Research Summary

Outcomes of applications to court for contact orders after parental separation or divorce

Family Law and justice Dicisions UK




Third of family break-up children lose contact with fathers in ‘failing’ court system, poll

Tens of thousands of children a year are losing contact with their fathers because of “failing” family court system and disastrous custody arrangements, a study has found.



Iain Duncan Smith said the family court system was 'a mess' with fathers too often shut out

By John Bingham

12:01AM GMT 16 Nov 2009

One in three children whose parents separated or divorced over the last 20 years disclosed that they had lost contact permanently with their father.

Almost a tenth of children from broken families said the acrimonious process had left them feeling suicidal while others later sought solace in drink, drugs or crime.

They complained of feeling “isolated” and “used” while parents admitted having used children as “bargaining tools” against each other.

Lawyers said the study showed that the court system itself was making family break-up more acrimonious with children used as "pawns".

They warned that so-called “no fault” divorces were encouraging warring parents to channel their “bloodletting” into disputes over contact.

Opposition politicians said the poll presented an alarming picture of a system “in a mess” which was all too often leaving fathers “shut out”.

The poll of 4,000 parents and children was carried out to provide a snapshot of the workings of the family court system exactly 20 years after the implementation of the landmark 1989 Children Act.

It found that a third of children from broken families had been tempted by drink or drugs while as many as 10 per cent had later become involved in crime.

A quarter of the children said that they had been asked to lie to one parent by the other and 15 per cent said they had even been called on to “spy” for their mother or father.

Meanwhile half of parents polled admitted deliberately drawing out the legal process for maximum benefit and more than two thirds conceded that they had used their children as “bargaining tools”.

About 250,000 couples, both married and non-married, separate every year affecting 350,000 kids, according to the Department for Children Schools and Families.

“The adversarial nature of the system invites people to come and use the courts system as a punch up and the children get used as pawns," said Sandra Davis, head of family law at Mishcon de Reya, for whom the poll was conducted.

“It polarises parents and it puts children in the middle of the antagonism.

“Some fathers back off because it is too painful to carry on litigating, they give up.”

Tim Loughton, the Tory Shadow children’s minister, said: “This is alarming evidence of the very detrimental impact it is having on the welfare of the children themselves.”

“Clearly, the court system is failing and is positively encouraging conflict - and continuing conflict.”

Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader and founder of the Centre for Social Justice, warned that young people were bearing the scars of a divorce “boom” and a resulting lack of father figures.

“It is a mess, it needs a complete overhaul," he said. "It is an organisation locked in secrecy and deeply unhelpful to the parents and the children and all too often able to exacerbate the problems that they are about to face.”

David Laws, the Liberal Democrat children’s spokesman, added: “In too many cases the children become caught up in the crossfire between two warring parties in a system which sometimes encourages the parents to take entrenched positions.”

Miss Davis called for compulsory mediation for parents hoping to use the divorce courts rather than the current ”tick box” exercise for those seeking legal aid.

But a spokesman for the Children’s Society said that compulsion “goes against everything we have learned from many, many years of experience”.

Delyth Morgan, the children’s minister, added: “Divorce and separation can have a devastating impact on children caught in the middle.

“But this survey, looking as far back as 20 years ago, simply doesn’t reflect what support is available for families now … we have acted to give families comprehensive counselling, practical and legal support.”