Family court has faced an unprecedented increase in workload since the beginning of the pandemic, and legal professionals are beginning to feel the strain. HHJ Wildblood explained the Bristol Family Court court has had 1.5 times the number of outstanding private law cases since January.
Now, more than ever, clients need to do all they can to lead with common sense over emotion, in order to avoid wasting court time and resources. Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done. That’s why it’s essential to seek legal advice when you can, so that everyone gets the outcome they need, in the most seamless way possible.
What does a wasted application to the court look like?
Judges have commented on the increase in high conflict private law applications being made to the court. Examples include requests to ask the court which junction on the M4 to hand over a child for contact, and asking the court how contact could be arranged to take place on a Sunday afternoon.
Whilst these cases are important, they can often be dealt with outside the courtroom. Clients must seek legal advice to help make a judgement call about next steps.
Acting with reason, not emotion
The court recognises the emotional strain clients are suffering when it comes to family legal issues. However, not all cases need to be settled in court. In fact, many cases can be settled through other forms of legal support, including mediation.
Every decision in family court is made in the best interest of the children, and the court strives to protect their welfare and ensure a fair outcome for everyone. However, with an ever-increasing workload, it becomes more and more difficult for the court to work effectively. If they’re clogged up with cases that could and should be settled out of court, it leaves less time for the cases who really need court intervention.
Of course, sometimes a court application needs to be made. However, more often than not, agreements can be made without taking the case to court.
Is it worth the court process?
If you’re unsure, it’s worth asking yourself or your clients, ‘is this case worth the court process?’. Can it be agreed outside a hearing? Are the financial proceedings worth taking the case to court?
In certain cases trying to resolve matters outside of court can end up taking longer and costing more if they fail and the court process has to be started later. Is your ex being unreasonable? Are they willing to provide full information voluntarily? Do they keep delaying?
It’s important for clients to really consider the answers to these questions. That way, they’ll be sure if court is the appropriate next step for their case. Sometimes the pressure of the court framework is needed in order to reach an agreement.
Possible sanctions for unreasonable applications
Though no absolute sanctions have been set in stone for requesting unreasonable applications to the court, judges have talked about imposing them should it continue. They are assumed to be financial sanctions, in the hope to deter clients from going to court before considering all other options.
Seek legal advice
When it comes to the law, there can be a lot of misconceptions. Very often, when clients think that court is the only option, they’re not aware of other paths available to them. It can be very difficult for clients to distinguish between what makes a reasonable and unreasonable application to the court. That’s why it’s essential to seek legal advice.
A family lawyer will know the ins and outs of the law, including all options available to their clients, if court is really necessary, and the consequences of taking or not taking a case to court. If a client takes a case to court under legal advice, they’re much less likely to be wasting the court’s valuable time and resources, as it will most often be the last (and only) option.
At Harrogate Family Law, it’s our job to guide you through your case, so that you can make the right decisions, not just for you, but for the court and other legal professionals. Which in turn eases the pressure experienced by the family court.
Let’s work together to ensure you get the outcome you need, in the most seamless way possible. Get in touch with us today.