Home / Insights / Blog / Family cases ‘could take longer’

Family cases ‘could take longer’

Family cases ‘could take longer’

A retired senior judge has warned that cases in the family court could take longer because cuts to legal aid will mean more people will have to represent themselves.

The former head of the High Court's Family Division, Baroness Butler-Sloss, said there were a "hard core" of cases which could not be dealt with through mediation, the Government's preferred measure.

Last month, justice secretary Ken Clarke revealed plans to make legal aid savings of £350 million by 2014/15.

It included a reduction in the scope of family legal aid.

During question time in the House of Lords, justice minister Lord McNally said the Government wanted to move away from litigation in settling family disputes, because research had shown it "caused lasting harm".

But Lady Butler-Sloss, a crossbench peer, said: "As a judge who tried a large number of family cases where both sides were litigants in person, I can confirm that these cases will take much longer.

"Do you realise that there is a hard core of people who are fighting over their children who will not agree through mediation?"

Lord McNally replied that there may be cases that took longer because of the absence of legal advice. But he added: "The intention, though, is to try and move a large number of these cases away from the court system and into mediation and other forms of settlement of dispute," he said.

"I fully accept there are family disputes that can become so bitter and intractable that resolution is very difficult but that still doesn't argue the case for the taxpayer funding both sides in that sort of dispute."

Baroness Deech, chairman of the Bar Standards Board, said that more men than women would be able to afford representation.

Our Family and Matrimonial team helps families across West London and Bucks. For advice, contact a member of the team, call us on 01494 790007 or email enquiries@ibblaw.co.uk.