The family justice system has endured a tough year but those at the coalface have remained hardened and committed in pushing to change amid unprecedented crises.
Legal aid cuts and rises in court fees continued to deny access to justice to many while the surge in care cases, compounded by the ongoing closures across England and Wales, placed family courts under even greater pressure.
The latest legal aid statistics from the Ministry of Justice reaffirmed the damaging impact of LASPO on those seeking state help. Since its introduction there have been 70,000 fewer applications (43 per cent) for family legal aid and 53,000 fewer granted (33 per cent).
As a consequence, a growing number of litigants in person are frequenting the courts, which on occasion has frustrated the process and presiding judges. For Hazel Wright, a partner at Hunters, LiPs represent the biggest challenge for the family justice system heading into 2017. She stressed to Solicitors Journal the importance of securing fair outcomes for families at a time of increasing need and where an already stretched system is being asked to assist more LiPs without the necessary resources to do so.
For Wright, greater use of out-of-court processes is a key area for progress to be made in 2017. In particular, she earmarked alternative dispute resolution as a means for resolving children and finance disputes while also highlighting the importance of referring high-conflict Children Act cases to relationship experts so as to avoid parents clogging up the courts.
Read the full article in Solicitors Journal here.