17 February 2016
86 Courts Closing Could Prevent Access to Justice For Vulnerable
The closure of UK courts could make disputes over children and finances on separation more difficult to resolve for the people of Britain, particularly the vulnerable.
Family lawyers are concerned about the accessibility of Family Courts for their clients after the Ministry of Justice announced that 86 courts will close.
The Ministry of Justice explained their decision by pointing to research that suggests 97 per cent of people will still be able to get to a court within an hour. However, many family law solicitors do not believe this research adequately considered the challenges people face getting to court. Getting to certain UK courts early in the morning can be very difficult, especially for those who are vulnerable.
Leading family lawyer Cara Nuttall said, “I fear that these court closures will make it increasingly difficult for people involved in family law disputes to get to court, and make waiting times for hearings even longer.
“Long waits for hearings in Family Courts due to court lists being full can cause dismay. Having children arrangements and divorce matters unresolved for long periods can unnecessarily increase stress and worry. Costs can increase if there are interim issues which have to be repeatedly addressed between hearings.”
The Ministry of Justice has stressed that modernisation and new procedures will improve efficiency and offset the closure of courts. They confirmed their decision to close 86 UK courts despite much opposition and petitions organised against the closing of Family Courts.
The court closures, which are part of a significant overhaul of the court system and family justice generally, come after a lengthy consultation process. The impact these changes will have remains to be seen.
As part of the modernisation process, there are now strict rules about which family law applications can be issued from which court. These rules depend on the type of case and where the family live. People now have less choice about which court they start legal proceedings concerning family issues from.
If you have a family law case which is listed in a court which is inconvenient it’s possible to apply for a ‘transfer of proceedings’ to another, more convenient, court. However many people are unaware this is an option and unfortunately, it can lead to additional delays.