Separating couples are being urged to use mediation instead of ending up in courtroom battles after a list of England and Wales divorce hot spots was revealed.
The list shows that almost 3,000 couples filed for divorce at Birmingham Civil Justice Centre and Family Courts last year*. This was followed by Weston-super-Mare County Court with almost 2,500 couples and Leicester County Court with over 1,800. These figures were the highest for any part of the country, outside of Greater London.
The statistics have been published as the Ministry of Justice takes steps to ensure that couples who do sadly make the decision to separate give consideration to using mediation - a quicker, simpler and more effective way of agreeing how they divide their assets or make arrangements for their children, which avoids the often divisive effect of the courtroom.
The MoJ has already announced that it expects to spend £25 million to support publicly-funded mediation this year and new laws are now being created to ensure that all separating couples must consider mediation to sort out the details of their divorce, before they decide to take their dispute to the Courts.
Family Justice Minister Lord McNally said:
‘All too often I hear stories of families going through expensive and traumatic court hearings but we know that when working out how to split assets and arrange time with the children, mediation is a far simpler and cheaper approach for everyone and leads to better outcomes.
‘That is why we are changing the law so that all couples seeking a court order about child contact or a financial matter must attend a mediation information assessment meeting first, to find out about mediation and consider whether it is suitable for them.’
In recent years greater numbers of people have been successfully using mediation - where they are helped to agree the issues between themselves rather than argue it out through lawyers with a judge taking the final decisions - and the Government expects to invest an additional £10m this year (taking the total spent to £25m) so more couples can do the same.
The courts where the most divorce petitions were applied for in the past year were (divorce petitions listed by court - Oct 2011 - Sept 2012):
Birmingham Civil Justice Centre and Family Courts: 2,799
Weston-super-Mare County Court: 2,437
Leicester County Court: 1,831
Romford County Court: 1,783
Coventry Combined Court Centre: 1,776
Norwich Combined Court Centre: 1,775
Bristol County Court: 1,705
Croydon County Court: 1,672
Nottingham County Court: 1,611
Chelmsford County and Family Proceedings Court: 1,567
Notes to editors:
View details of quarterly court statistics broken down by court.
- The number of divorces filed are likely to be dependent on the number of adult/married people that a particular court covers.
- The average cost of resolving property and financial disputes caused by separation is approximately £500 through mediation for a publicly funded client, compared to £4,000 for issued settled through the courts. The average time for a mediated case is 110 days compared to 435 days for non-mediated cases.
- The additional funding is expected to meet increased use of mediation from April 2013 and will provide additional public funding for eligible couples to use mediation. The Government currently spends £15m a year on family mediation.
- Mediation won’t be right for everyone. Some people will be able to sort out their own disputes without using mediation or going to court, and in certain circumstances - such as with domestic violence or child protection - legal action through the courts may be needed.
- Information for anyone considering divorce or separation, advice on some of the support and services available is available at www.gov.uk.
- Searches for ‘divorce’ on www.justice.gov.uk increased from 744 in December 2011 to 1,364 in January 2012. There were 692 searches on DirectGov (now part of Gov.Uk) for ‘divorce process’ in the first week of January 2012, compared to 188 in the first week of December.
- For more information please call the Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3536.