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Family court applications following separation reach record highs

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) has continued to see high levels of private law cases in March, with 4,001 new applications passed to Cafcass - a 1% increase on March 2012 levels.

The surge in new applications appears to be linked to the legal aid changes, which were implemented on 1st April. The changes mean that most people will no longer be eligible for funding for legal representation and advice in disputes about future arrangements for children, following parental separation or divorce.

Cafcass Chief Executive Anthony Douglas said: “These changes may present a positive opportunity for couples to settle their differences outside of court via mediation services, as promoted by the Government.

“However, as a result of this surge, we will be seeing more people unrepresented in the family courts. There is some concern that this may lead to longer case duration. Cafcass is going to monitor the impact of this increase to ensure that children are kept at the centre of proceedings: long, drawn out cases are never in the best interests of a child.”

Cafcass expects to see a drop in applications over the first few months of the 2013/14 financial year, following the changes. Based on patterns observed from previous policy changes within the family justice system, it is anticipated that levels will normalise after that.

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