Family Court Statistics Quarterly: July to September 2022
1. Main Points
|Minimal change in the number of cases started in the Family Courts||65,691 new cases started in Family courts in July to September 2022, similar to the same quarter in 2021. This was due to decreases in financial remedy (20%), public law (2%), adoption and private law (both 1%) cases which were offset by increases in matrimonial (8%) and domestic violence (2%) case starts.|
|There were 28,921 divorce applications under the new legislation||New divorce legislation came into effect from 6th April 2022. Between July to September 2022 there were 28,921 applications made (77% from sole applicants, 23% from joint applicants), including those for dissolution of civil partnerships|
|Increase in both domestic violence remedy applications and orders made.||The number of domestic violence remedy order applications increased by 2% compared to the equivalent quarter in 2021, while the number of orders made increased by 1% over the same period.|
|Adoption applications increase while the number of orders decreased||In July to September 2022 there were 1,006 adoption applications, up 5% on the equivalent quarter in 2021. Similarly, the number of adoption orders issued decreased by 8% to 1,024.|
|Increase in deprivation of liberty applications and decrease in orders made.||There were 1,646 applications relating to deprivation of liberty in July to September 2022, up 3% on the equivalent quarter in 2021. Orders decreased by 36% in the latest quarter compared to the same period last year.|
|Increase in the proportion of applications for probate grants and probate grants issued made digitally||In July to September 2022, there were 58,658 applications for probate grants. 55,289 probate grants were issued in the same period. 87% of these applications and 89% of these grants issued were made digitally, compared to 81% and 82% respectively in the same quarter in 2021.|
This publication presents statistics on activity in the family courts of England and Wales and provides figures for the latest quarter (July to September 2022). For further information and technical details please refer to the accompanying Guide to Family Court Statistics.
For feedback related to the content of this publication, please let us know at [email protected]
1.1 Data Quality Issues
The rollout of reform in family courts has introduced a new data management system, Core Case Data (CCD), to collect family data. As each service area undergoes reform, existing cases stay on the legacy system FamilyMan (FM) until they are disposed or closed, while new cases are recorded on CCD with some key details copied back to FM.
Currently, family public law (FPL) is undergoing this reform process. However, not all details are copied across for FPL (such as substantive orders other than final). Until work is completed to amalgamate both FM and CCD, several published data series cannot be maintained.
These series have been removed from Q1 (Jan-Mar) 2022 unless otherwise stated:
The total number of public law disposals (Table 2), as well as public law orders and cases disposed for Q3 (Jul-Sept) 2022. As a result, the total number of cases disposed is not provided.
The number of orders granted and children involved in orders granted by order type (Table 4)
The number of public law cases started indicated as High Court (Table 7) for Q3 (Jul-Sept) 2022
Care and supervision proceedings timeliness (Table 8)
Overall public law timeliness (Table 10)
They will be reinstated once both data sources have been combined. The target for this to be corrected is June 2023, which includes data up to March 2023.
Volumes of new cases starting during July to September 2022 are similar to the same time period last year, with increases in matrimonial and domestic violence remedy cases balancing out slight decreases in most other case types. Closed cases have decreased in most areas, although there was a record high for closing domestic violence remedy cases, following the record levels of applications seen earlier in the pandemic.
Data on the divorce legislation introduced in April 2022 is expanded upon in this release, to include the number of conditional orders for the first time (previously decrees nisi). There were 645 conditional orders made in July to September (including for dissolution of civil partnerships), with the majority coming from sole applicants. As the numbers are low (due to the new mandatory waiting periods), we will not be commenting on timeliness relating to the conditional orders stage at the moment.
Most timeliness measures have seen increases from the same period last year – in particular, the average time taken for a private law case to get a final order granted is up over 4 weeks from the same period last year.
As the migration to an online public law service has rolled out, there continue to be key data issues to be handled. The main data source remains to be the existing FamilyMan system, with limited aggregate data available from the new Core Case Data (CCD) system for the new digital process. As a result, a number of data series regarding public law will not be updated until both FamilyMan and CCD are amalgamated (particularly impacting related timeliness metrics) – the target for this to be corrected is June 2023, which will include data up to March 2023.
3. Overview of the Family Justice System
Minimal change in the number of cases started
In July to September 2022, 65,691 new cases started in family courts, similar to the equivalent quarter in 2021. This was due to decreases in financial remedy (20%), public law (2%), adoption and private law (both 1%) cases which were offset by increases in matrimonial (8%) and domestic violence (2%) case starts.
Figure 1: Cases started and disposed, by case type, January to March 2011 to July to September 2022 (Source: Table 1)
In July to September 2022, 44% of new cases within family courts related to matrimonial matters, up from the equivalent quarter of 2021 (41%).
Timeliness by Case Type
The average time for divorce and annulment cases to reach first disposal was up 19 weeks compared to the equivalent quarter in 2021 – this includes both old and new divorce cases, with the latter incorporating a 20-week wait between application and the conditional order. Private law cases also took longer, with the average time to first disposal in July to September 2022 taking 29 weeks, up 3 weeks compared to the same period in 2021.
Public and private law cases – number of parties, and High Court cases
The vast majority of private law cases involve one applicant and one respondent only (Table 6). However, for public law cases whilst nearly all cases have only one applicant, 73% involve two or more respondents.
A very small proportion of private (1%) law cases started were indicated as being a High Court case during July to September 2022, consistent with the long-term trend (Table 7).
HMCTS monthly management information
The statistics in this publication focus on the period between July to September 2022; however, monthly management information (MI) has been published by HMCTS that covers up to October 2022. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/hmcts-management-information-october-2022. This MI is subject to the data quality issues associated with extracting data from large live administrative case management systems. Late reporting of cases and regular updating of case details, which can lead to the figures being updated to manage the case – more recent figures may therefore be subject to larger revisions and should be treated with greater care and considered provisional.
4. Children Act – Public Law
Decrease in the number of public law case starts
There were 3,995 public law cases starting in July to September 2022, down 2% compared to the equivalent quarter in 2021.
There were 6,675 individual children involved in new public law applications in July to September 2022, down 1% on the same quarter in the previous year, while the number of applications made decreased by 6%.
Figure 2: Public law applications by order type, July to September 2022 (Source: Table 3)
5. Children Act – Private Law
Decrease in the number of private law case starts and cases disposed
The number of private law cases[footnote 1] started decreased by 1% (to 13,669) in July to September 2022 compared to the equivalent quarter in 2021. There was no change in the number of applications made over the same period.
The number of private law cases disposed of during July to September 2022 was down 6% on the equivalent quarter in 2021, with the number of disposals down by 12% (Table 2).
There were 14,147 new private law applications made in July to September 2022, down 1% compared to the equivalent quarter in 2021, with 21,098 individual children involved in these applications.
The number of private law disposals in July to September 2022 was 27,861, down 12% on the equivalent quarter in 2021.
Timeliness of Private law cases
In July to September 2022, it took on average 45 weeks for private law cases to reach a final order (similar to the peak seen between April to June 2022), i.e. case closure, up 5 weeks from the same period in 2021. This continues the upward trend seen since the middle of 2016, where the number of new cases overtook the number of disposals (Table 9).
Figure 3: Private law timeliness from case start date to final order in the family court, January to March 2011 to July to September 2022 (Source: Table 9)
6. Legal Representation
Cases with legal representation take longer on average
In general, cases where either both parties or the respondent only had legal representation took longer to be disposed of than those cases where only the applicant was represented or where both parties were without legal representation (Table 10).
Legal representation in private law cases
The removal of legal aid for many private law cases in April 2013 resulted in a change in the pattern of legal representation over time[footnote 2],[footnote 3]. In July to September 2022, the proportion of disposals where neither the applicant nor respondent had legal representation was 39%, increasing by 26 percentage points since January to March 2013, and up 2 percentage points from July to September 2021.
Correspondingly, the proportion of cases where both parties had legal representation went from 41% in January to March 2013 to 18% in July to September 2022, down 2 percentage points compared to the same period in 2021 (Figure 4).
Figure 4: Proportion of private law disposals by type of legal representation of the parties, January to March 2012 to July to September 2022 (Source: Table 10)
The change seen in the pattern of legal representation is also demonstrated in private law cases with at least one hearing where the proportion of parties with legal representation stood at 59% in 2012 compared to 28% in July to September 2022.
The proportion of parties with legal representation in cases with at least one hearing varies by case type and range from around 73% for financial remedy cases to 3% for adoption cases, with figures subject to change as new cases progress (Table 11).
There were 28,921 divorce applications (including civil partnerships) under the new legislation from 6th April 2022
New divorce legislation came into effect from 6th April 2022, which aims to reduce the potential for conflict amongst divorcing couples by:
- removing the ability to make allegations about the conduct of a spouse
- allowing couples to end their marriage jointly.
Between July and September 2022 there were 28,921 applications made under the new law (77% from sole applicants, 23% from joint applicants) (Table 12b). The number of applications was an increase of 8% from the same quarter in 2021.
Please note that the new divorce legislation introduced new terminology and new mandatory waiting periods at key stages. For further information, please see the guide that accompanies this publication.
Under the old divorce law, there were 19,782 decree absolutes granted in July to September 2022, down 28% compared to the same quarter in 2021 (Table 12).
Increase in the average time for divorce proceedings (mostly under the old law)
The mean average time from the date of petition to decree nisi/conditional order (96% granted under the old divorce legislation) was 43 weeks, up 19 weeks from the same period in 2021. The mean average time from petition to decree absolute was 66 weeks, up 11 weeks from the equivalent quarter in 2021 – these increases have been impacted by resourcing issues which have led to backlogs. Also please note that, due to the mandatory waiting period between applying for divorce and applying for the conditional order (CO), this means that any new cases started since the 6th April 2022 would have had to have waited at least 20 weeks before getting to the CO stage.
The mean timeliness figures can be inflated when historical cases reach decree nisi or decree absolute. These historical cases have less effect on the median timeliness, which may act as a better indicator for the length of current divorce proceedings. In July to September 2022, the median time to decree nisi was 27 weeks and 40 weeks to decree absolute. These proceedings are those where applications were made prior to 6th April 2022 and so by their nature will inflate the measure of timeliness. Therefore, until the last case applied for under the old law is finalised, it’s likely that the average times will increase.
Due to the mandatory waiting periods for the new divorce legislation, we will not be commenting separately on timeliness for ‘new divorce’ cases fully until there are substantial numbers of conditional/final orders made.
Digital divorce cases
For digital divorce cases (i.e. those dealt with by the Courts and Tribunals Service Centres that are digital at all stages), there were 27,868 applications made during July to September 2022 (96% of the total, up from 80% in the same period of 2021). The average time to decree nisi/conditional order (94% granted under the old divorce legislation) for July to September 2022 was 28 weeks, and 37 weeks from petition to decree absolute.
Figure 5: Divorce applications made between Q3 2019 to Q3 2022, by case type (Source: Table 12)
8. Financial Remedy
Decrease seen in financial remedy applications and disposals events
In July to September 2022, the number of financial remedy applications was down 20% and the number of disposal events was down 29% compared to the same period in 2021 (Table 14).
There were 9,475 financial remedy applications made in July to September 2022, down 20% from the same period in 2021, while there were 8,597 financial remedy disposals events, down 29%. During this period, 69% of applications were uncontested and 31% were contested.
Following the digitalisation of the financial remedy process, timeliness is now between 1-2 weeks (down from 7 weeks during July to September 2021) (with the majority of applications being consented to, 73%) (Table 10).
Figure 6: Applications for financial remedy orders, January to March 2009 to July to September 2022 (Source: Table 14)
9. Domestic Violence Remedy Orders
Increase in both the number of domestic violence remedy applications and orders made
In July to September 2022, there was a 2% increase in applications made compared to the equivalent quarter in 2021. The number of orders made increased by 1% over the same period (Table 15).
In July to September 2022, there were 8,104 domestic violence remedy applications, up by 2% on the same quarter in 2021 requesting a total of 9,328 orders (multiple orders can be applied for in a single application). Most of the orders applied for were non-molestation orders (84%) compared to occupation orders (16%); these proportions have remained relatively consistent in recent years. Applications for non-molestation and occupation orders in July to September 2022 were both up, by 3% and 2% respectively, compared to the same period in 2021.
There were 9,804 domestic violence orders made in July to September 2022, up 1% from the same period last year. 94% were non-molestation orders and 6% were occupation orders, with non-molestation orders up by 1% and occupation orders down by 1% compared to the equivalent quarter in 2021.
The lockdown situation as a result of the covid-19 pandemic brought warnings about an increase in domestic violence, with victims having less opportunity to leave abusive partners. Longer term, police forces have been using a power to release alleged perpetrators without bail conditions, referred to as ‘released under investigation’, since 2017. This is a possible driving factor behind the rise in domestic violence remedy cases, as victims seek protective orders through the courts. The publicity regarding the Domestic Abuse Bill (draft published January 2019 and completed in the Commons stages July 2020) may have also impacted levels.
Figure 7: Applications for domestic violence remedy orders, January to March 2009 to July to September 2022 (Source: Table 15)
10. Forced Marriage Protection Orders and Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders
Long term upward trend in the number of forced marriage protection orders and female genital mutilation protection orders (Table 16 and 17).
The number of applications and orders made for forced marriage protection orders (FMPOs) is very small. Consequently, numbers fluctuate each quarter but overall, there was a long-term upward trend from their introduction in November 2008 until the end of 2019.
This trend was impacted with sharp decreases seen during 2020 but has increased since. In July to September 2022, there were 75 applications, of which 63% of applications were for people aged 17 and under. Over the same period, there were 95 orders made, up 40% since the same period from the previous year.
The increase in the number of orders does not necessarily represent an increase in the prevalence of forced marriage, but potentially it relates to a greater awareness of forced marriage being a crime and the support available. The government have held events during 2019 with relevant groups (local authorities, police, charities etc.), designed specifically to raise awareness of FMPOs and how they can be used to protect those at risk. Historically the numbers of orders made outweigh the number of applications. Often there are multiple orders granted per case, where one application covers more than one person, and an order is granted for each person covered in the application. Extensions and increased provision of previous orders can also be granted as new orders, without the need for a new application to be submitted.
Figure 8: Applications and orders made for Forced Marriage Protection Orders, January to March 2009 to July to September 2022 (Source: Table 16)
As with FMPOs, the number of applications and orders made for female genital mutilation protection orders (FGMPOs) is very small, with only 15 applications and 25 orders made respectively in July to September 2022 (Table 17). In total, there have been 554 applications and 789 orders made up to end of September 2022, since their introduction in July 2015.
Increase in the number of adoption applications and a decrease in orders made
During July to September 2022, there were 1,006 adoption applications made, up 5% from the equivalent quarter in 2021. Over the same period, the number of adoption orders issued decreased by 8% to 1,024 (Tables 18 and 19).
There were 2,001 applications under the Adoption and Children Act 2002, including placement orders during July to September 2022, down 1% compared to the same quarter in the previous year. Total disposals decreased by 16% to 1,772 over the same period.
The chart below shows the trend of adoption orders by the type of adopter. This shows that during July to September 2022, 55% of all adoption orders were issued to mixed-sex couples, 21% to sole applicants, 16% to same-sex couples and 7% to step-parents.
Figure 9: Adoption orders issued, by adopter, January to March 2011 to July to September 2022 (Source: Table 19)
12. Mental Capacity Act – Court of Protection
Increase in applications with a decrease in orders made in relation to deprivation of liberty
There were 1,646 applications relating to deprivation of liberty made in the most recent quarter, which is an increase of 3% on the number made in the same quarter in 2021. However, there was a decrease by 36% in the orders made for deprivation of liberty over the same period from 988 to 637.
A decrease in both applications and orders under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA)
There were 9,045 applications made in July to September 2022, down by 8%. During the same period there were 12,094 orders made, down by 2%.
Figure 10: Deprivation of Liberty applications and orders, January to March 2008 to July to September 2022 (Source: Table 21)
In July to September 2022, there were 9,045 applications made under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA), down by 8% on the equivalent quarter in 2021 (9,788 applications). Of those, 39% related to applications for appointment of a property and affairs deputy (Table 20).
In comparison, there were 12,094 orders made under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA), down by 2% on the same quarter in 2021. Of those, 41% related to orders by an existing deputy or registered attorney (Table 21).
13. Mental Capacity Act – Office of the Public Guardian
Continuing increasing trend in Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs)
In July to September 2022, there were 201,121 LPAs registered, up 19% compared to the equivalent quarter in 2021 (Table 22).
In total there were 202,623 Powers of Attorney (POAs) registered in July to September 2022, up 18% from the same quarter in 2021 (Table 22). Lasting Power of Attorney (LPAs) made up 99% of POAs registered in July to September 2022, with Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPAs) making up the other 1%. There were 1,502 EPAs registered in July to September 2022, down 18% on the equivalent quarter in 2021.
The sharp increase in LPAs seen during 2015 and 2016 was largely due to increased publicity and the new online forms introduced in July 2015 making it simpler and faster to apply.
Figure 11: Powers of Attorney registered, January to March 2008 to July to September 2022 (Source: Table 22)
57% of POAs registered were from female donors in July to September 2022 and 42% were from male donors. Altogether 52% were over 75 years old.
14. Probate Service
Increase in both the proportion of digital applications for probate grants and probate grants issued digitally
In July to September 2022, there were 58,658 applications for probate grants. 55,289 probate grants were issued in the same period. 87% of these applications and 89% of these grants issued were made digitally, compared to 81% and 82% respectively in the same quarter in 2021 (Table 23).
Probate grants issued more quickly than other grants of representation
Probate grants took approximately 7 weeks to be issued after the application was submitted during July to September 2022. Letters of administration with a will and without a will took around 19 and 15 weeks respectively (Table 24).
There were 69,817 applications made for grants of representation in July to September 2022. 58,658 (84%) of these were for probate grants, of which 87% were made digitally (Table 23).
Probate grants also make up the majority (84%) of all grants issued. In July to September 2022, 63% of the grants issued were applied for by legal professionals and 37% were personal applications (Table 23). For the 55,289 probate grants issued in the same period, 89% were issued digitally.
Timeliness of probate grants
The average time from application submission to grant issue for probate grants was 7 weeks (median average 5 weeks) overall. Averages for letters of administration with a will and without a will were 19 and 15 weeks respectively for July to September 2022 (Table 24).
Timeliness of grants issued can be affected if the case has been ‘stopped’ for any reason (which can occur when there’s a dispute about either who can apply for probate or issues with a will or proposed will, or if an error is identified and a request for further information made). Probate grants that were stopped during July to September 2022 took 15 weeks on average to be issued, compared to 4 weeks for those that were not stopped.
When looking at the time from document receipt (i.e. when payment has been made and the application and all accompanying documents are ready for examination) to grant issue, this is around 2 weeks quicker than the average time from application submission for probate grants.
Figure 12: Average (mean) time for grants of representation issued from application submission by the Probate Service, July to September 2019 to July to September 2022 (Source: Table 24)[footnote 4]
15. Further information
The data presented in this publication are from live administrative databases. Therefore, previously published data is liable to be updated in the latest bulletin, following any further data cleaning or the incorporation of additional cases not available in the extracts used to produce previous bulletins.
As well as this bulletin, the following products are published as part of this release:
A technical guide providing further information on how the data is collected and processed, as well as information on the revisions policy and legislation relevant to family court and background on the functioning of the family justice system
A set of overview tables and CSV files, covering each section of this bulletin
National Statistics status
National Statistics status means that official statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and public value.
All official statistics should comply with all aspects of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They are awarded National Statistics status following an assessment by the Authority’s regulatory arm. The Authority considers whether the statistics meet the highest standards of Code compliance, including the value they add to public decisions and debate.
It is the Ministry of Justice’s responsibility to maintain compliance with the standards expected for National Statistics. If we become concerned about whether these statistics are still meeting the appropriate standards, we will discuss any concerns with the Authority promptly. National Statistics status can be removed at any point when the highest standards are not maintained, and reinstated when standards are restored.
Press enquiries should be directed to the Ministry of Justice press office:
Tel: 0203 334 3536
Email: [email protected]
Other enquiries about these statistics should be directed to the Data and Evidence as a Service division of the Ministry of Justice:
Carly Gray, Head of Access to Justice Data and Statistics, using the following email address
Next update: 30 March 2023
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