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Care proceedings duration highest since 2014

The duration of care proceedings is the highest average since early 2014, it has emerged.

Ministry of Justice figures show the average time for a care or supervision case to reach first disposal was 30 weeks in April to June 2018. This was two weeks up from the same quarter in 2017 and the highest average since early 2014.

While care and supervision proceedings should be completed within 26 weeks under the Public Law Outline, the statistics showed that just 48% of cases were disposed of within the 26 weeks deadline. This was down 8 percentage points over the same period for 2017.

In April to June 2018, 68,141 new cases started in family courts, up 7% on the equivalent quarter in 2017. This was driven by an 18% rise in matrimonial cases starting. However, there were decreases in new adoption and financial remedy cases starting. Adoption cases fell by 6% and financial remedy cases fell by 4%.

There were 53,624 case disposals in April to June 2018, down 6% on the equivalent quarter of 2017. This was due to decreases in matrimonial, financial remedy and adoption cases reaching a final disposal.

The number of adoption applications and orders continued their downward trend. During April to June 2018, there were 1,255 adoption order applications made, down 1% from the equivalent quarter in 2017. Over the same period the number of adoption orders issued decreased 9% to 1,271.

There were 2,750 applications under the Adoption and Children Act 2002, including placement orders during April to June 2018, a 6% decrease on the same quarter in the previous year. Total disposals also dropped 10% to 2,532 over the same period. During April to June 2018, 59% of all adoption orders were issued to male/female couples, 18 % to sole applicants, 14% to same-sex couples and a further 9% to step-parents.

The number of domestic violence remedy orders increased. In April to June 2018, there were 6,127 applications made for a domestic violence remedy order, up 1% on the same quarter in 2017. Most of the applications were for non-molestation orders (81%) compared to occupation orders (19%). Similarly, of the 7,131 domestic violence orders made in April to June 2018, 93% were non-molestation orders and 7% were occupation orders.

There has been a 5% increase in the number of non-molestation orders and a 12% decrease in the number of occupation orders compared to the equivalent quarter in 2017.

Ministry of Justice: Family Court Statistics Quarterly, England and Wales, April to June 2018

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