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Family Justice System

Volume 639: debated on Tuesday 24 April 2018

I was pleased to meet my hon. Friend in March to discuss issues related to the family justice system, which he cares deeply about. It is important that every child has a stable home, and we need to look across the justice system to ensure that it delivers the right outcomes for vulnerable children and their families.

I was grateful for the meeting with the Minister. Does she agree with Baroness Shackleton that fault-based divorce produces uncertainty that creates an industry for lawyers and a jungle for the layman? Is it not high time for an overhaul of the whole family law system to address that and many other issues to do with couples’ rights before, after and without marriage?

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point about no-fault divorces, as he has previously. When there is conflict within a family, it is important to reduce that conflict in the interests of not only the parents but the children. I can confirm that we are looking actively at the issue.

Our family courts are in crisis. The Ministry of Justice’s own figures show that since the removal of legal aid from the family courts, two thirds of litigants represent themselves and have no access to lawyers. They have to deal with the incredibly complex issues that arise in the family courts. Will the Minister confirm whether, as part of the review of the family justice system, the Lord Chancellor will re-establish early legal aid in such cases, which we have promised?

The hon. Lady makes an important point. Family justice is important, because issues for children start by having a stable home and a strong family. She will know that, as part of the LASPO reviews, we will be looking at the issues she raises. I should also say that we have an online pilot at the moment relating to divorce, and it has been incredibly successful. It used to be the case that 40% of paper applications for a divorce were sent back owing to incorrect filings. That number is now down to 0.8%.