Publication - Statistics publication

Civil Justice Statistics in Scotland 2013-14

Published: 21 Jul 2015
Part of:
Statistics
ISBN:
9781785445408

The 2013-14 Civil Justice in Scotland release includes: 1. Main statistics tables (compromising tables that appear in this bulletin) 2. Divorce & dissolution statistics tables (further breakdowns on divorce & dissolution) 3. Supplementary statistics tables (additional statistics on civil law cases in sheriff courts and the Court of Session) 4. Background data tables (an interactive dataset on civil law court cases by court, that can be used to generate user customised tables and charts)

65 page PDF

1.2 MB

65 page PDF

1.2 MB

Contents
Civil Justice Statistics in Scotland 2013-14
5. Family

65 page PDF

1.2 MB

5. Family

Divorce and dissolution make up 76 per cent of family cases

Of the 9,619 divorces granted in 2013-14 three fifths used the simplified procedure

Fewer than 1 per cent of family cases are heard in the Court of Session

Family law in Scotland

Family law covers a wide range of areas including divorce, dissolution of a civil partnership, parental responsibilities and rights and aliment. This section also contains statistics on sheriff court summary applications relating to children's hearings and adoption.

Scottish Crime and Justice Survey

In the 2012-13 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, two per cent of respondents to the civil module reported experiencing a problem to do with child contact, residence or maintenance, two per cent experienced problems to do with the behaviour of a partner, ex-partner or other person harassing them and one per cent of respondents reported other problems to do with divorce or separation.

Amongst those for whom family based problems are considered to be most important, almost half (48 per cent) had already solved the problem, while 38 per cent were still trying to solve it. Thirty one per cent had sought help or advice from others excluding from family or friends and over half (53 per cent) had made contact with a solicitor[5] for help.

Courts

The court statistics presented in this bulletin relate only to the principal crave of case. This means that the statistics on certain case types, such as contact and residence, may not reflect the true number of actions brought to court as they are often ancillary craves in a case where the principal crave is for divorce.

During 2013-14, 13,853 family cases were initiated in the civil courts and 11,880 were disposed. Although there has been an overall decrease in cases initiated and disposed since 2008-09, the number of family cases has been stable since 2011-12. Divorce / dissolution and parental responsibilities and rights are the biggest case types and together account for 94 per cent of family cases initiated (Figure 9 and Table 5).

Table 5: Family procedure cases initiated and disposed of in the civil courts, by case type, 2008-09 to 2013-14

Cases Case type 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 % change on
2012-13
Initiated Divorce / dissolution 11,752 11,159 11,018 10,678 10,355 10,573 2
Parental responsibilities & rights 2,364 2,742 2,713 2,272 2,751 2,479 -10
Interdict 381 409 262 329 370 352 -5
Aliment 82 88 89 69 58 77 33
Exclusion order 7 18 26 14 14 16 14
Nullity of marriage / civil partnership 0 0 2 1 0 0 0
Other 250 317 386 316 314 356 13
Total initiated 14,836 14,733 14,496 13,679 13,862 13,853 0
Disposed Divorce / dissolution 11,538 10,750 10,115 9,879 9,571 9,809 2
Parental responsibilities & rights 1,276 1,416 1,596 1,542 1,638 1,634 0
Interdict 93 134 140 137 166 146 -12
Aliment 55 46 50 64 32 54 69
Exclusion order 11 4 8 6 6 8 33
Nullity of marriage / civil partnership 0 0 2 2 0 1 n/a
Other 177 198 216 234 210 228 9
Total disposed 13,150 12,548 12,127 11,864 11,623 11,880 2

1. For family-related summary application cases, see Table 8.
2. Figures for initiations and disposals do not necessarily refer to the same cases.
3. Includes Court of Session and sheriff court.
4. Statistics for 2013-14 corrected November 2015.

Table 6: Family procedure cases initiated and disposed of in the Court of Session, by case type 2013-14

Case type Initiated Disposed Disposed
Absolvitor Dismissed For pursuer Expenses only Other
Defended Undefended Defended Undefended Defended Undefended
Aliment 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
Divorce / dissolution 95 98 1 7 3 6 73 0 0 8
Ordinary divorce 35 31 1 6 0 6 10 0 0 8
Simplified divorce 57 63 0 1 3 0 59 0 0 0
Ordinary dissolution 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Simplified dissolution 3 4 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 0
Exclusion order2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Nullity of marriage / civil partnership 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Parental responsibilities & rights 5 8 0 4 2 2 0 0 0 0
Contact 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Residence 2 5 0 2 2 1 0 0 0 0
Other 2 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
Other 9 2 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0
Total 109 111 1 13 5 8 75 0 0 9

1. Figures for initiations and disposals do not necessarily refer to the same cases.
2. Exclusion orders which suspend the right of a spouse, civil partner or cohabitant to occupy the family home.
3. Statistics corrected November 2015.

Figure 9: Family cases initiated in the civil courts, 2013-14

Figure 9: Family cases initiated in the civil courts, 2013-14

Court of session

Only a small proportion of family cases are heard in the Court of Session. In 2013-14 there were 109 family cases initiated there which represented three per cent of cases in the General Department of that court. Divorce and dissolution account for 87 per cent of family cases initiated in the Court of Session (Table 6).

Sheriff court

There were 13,744 ordinary cause family procedure cases initiated in the sheriff courts during 2013-14, very similar to the number initiated in 2012-13. The majority were divorce and dissolution which made up 76 per cent of initiated family cases. Most of the disposed divorce and dissolution cases were found in favour of the pursuer and 96 per cent were undefended (Table 7). Further information on divorce and dissolutions can be found later in this chapter.

The majority of the remaining family cases initiated in 2013-14 related to parental responsibilities and rights. Within this category, the 1,153 contact cases were the most common. It should be noted that this statistic relates only to cases where contact is the principal crave. As in previous years, relatively few parental responsibilities and rights cases were disposed in 2013-14 compared to those initiated (1,626 disposed and 2,474 initiated). One possible reason for this is that these cases can be sisted (suspended), whilst sheriffs seek further information, and parties can resolve their issues outside court during this time. These cases are not then brought back to court for disposal (Table 7).

As detailed in the Recent changes to civil legislation section, the introduction of the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 has resulted in changes to the court business relating to children's hearings reported in Table 8. While the statistics for 'extend/vary interim order' (previously referred to as child in place of safety), and children's hearings 'referral' and 'appeal' are based on similar definitions to those used for equivalent statistics previously, caution should be exercised when making comparisons between years. The statistics for the category 'Children's Hearing Act 2011 - Other' are new and have no direct equivalent in previous bulletins.

The large majority (93 per cent) of applications to extend/vary an interim order were granted. Similarly, most children's hearing - referral applications were granted and established the grounds for referral with the case being referred back to the Children's Hearing to dispose of the case (Table 8).

The number of adoption petitions has been relatively stable in recent years. In 2013-14 there were 481 cases initiated. In contrast, the number of applications initiated for permanence orders with authority to adopt has been steadily rising, and reached 306 in 2013-14. The disposals of adoption petitions and permanence orders with authority to adopt show a similar pattern with nearly all these applications being granted (96 per cent and 94 per cent respectively) (Table 8).

Table 7: Family procedure cases initiated and disposed of in the sheriff courts, by case type 2013-14

Case type Initiated Disposed Disposed
Absolvitor Dismissed For pursuer Expenses only Other
Defended Undefended Defended Undefended Defended Undefended
Aliment 77 52 1 24 1 15 7 1 0 3
Divorce / dissolution 10,478 9,711 0 47 296 350 8,993 3 0 22
Ordinary divorce 4,206 3,462 0 41 17 350 3,031 3 0 20
Simplified divorce 6,211 6,174 0 6 276 0 5,890 0 0 2
Ordinary dissolution 8 6 0 0 0 0 6 0 0 0
Simplified dissolution 53 69 0 0 3 0 66 0 0 0
Exclusion order2 16 8 0 1 1 2 3 0 0 1
Interdict 352 146 2 41 28 20 47 0 0 8
Parental responsibilities & rights 2,474 1,626 2 442 72 501 465 9 1 134
Contact 1,153 650 1 286 40 226 49 7 0 41
Residence 720 482 0 50 18 164 194 2 0 54
Other 601 494 1 106 14 111 222 0 1 39
Other 347 226 14 57 18 37 88 1 0 11
Total 13,744 11,769 19 612 416 925 9,603 14 1 179

1. Figures for initiations and disposals do not necessarily refer to the same cases.
2. Exclusion orders which suspend the right of a spouse, civil partner or cohabitant to occupy the family home.

Table 8: Family-related summary application cases initiated and disposed of by case type and final disposal, 2013-14

Case type Disposed
Initiated Disposed Granted Dismissed Refused Dropped
from roll
Withdrawn Other
Adoption Petitions3 481 429 412 3 6 0 5 3
Extend/vary interim order4 2,294 1,620 1,499 27 12 50 20 12
Children's hearings - appeal4 1,142 881 319 117 214 110 38 83
Children's hearings - referral4 2,990 2,343 1,727 114 10 94 17 381
Children's Hearings Act 2011 - Other5 799 422 370 14 27 0 5 6
Permanence orders with authority to adopt 306 223 210 5 2 0 6 0

1. Figures for initiations and disposals do not necessarily refer to the same cases.
2. The number of summary application cases disposed of is likely an underestimate. For more information see Civil Justice Statistics in Scotland 2013-14 section on Important notes on the use of civil justice statistics.
3. Adoption petitions include both family adoptions and adoptions from care. Statistics on adoptions from care are available from Children's Social Work Statistics additional tables (see www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Children/PubChildrenSocialWork)
4. These case types represent equivalent actions from the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011. For more information see Civil Justice Statistics in Scotland 2013-14 section on Recent changes to civil legislation.
5. 'Other' includes Child Protection Order, Child Assessment Order as well as a range of miscellaneous cases.

Divorce and Dissolution of a Civil Partnership

Divorce is the formal procedure that ends a marriage whilst the procedure for ending same-sex civil partnerships is known as dissolution.

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force on 5 December 2005, allowing legal relationships between two people of the same sex to be formed. The first civil partnerships in Scotland were registered on 20 December 2005.

Divorce and dissolution cases can be raised in either the Court of Session or the sheriff courts. Since 1984, most divorce cases in Scotland have been heard in the sheriff courts. Divorce cases may be taken to the Court of Session if the issues that have to be resolved are complicated or the value of the assets to be divided is high.

There are two grounds for divorce, which are:

  • The irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, which can be established by:
    • Adultery committed by the defender;
    • Unreasonable behaviour by the defender;
    • One year non-cohabitation and the defender consents to the divorce;
    • Two years non-cohabitation if one partner doesn't agree to the divorce.
  • Either party being issued with an interim gender recognition certificate.

The grounds for dissolution of a civil partnership and means of proving irretrievable breakdown are similar to those for ending a marriage although adultery does not establish the irretrievable breakdown of a civil partnership. Same-sex unions from other jurisdictions were not recognised in Scotland until the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force and so no dissolutions were possible until then.

Divorces and dissolutions can be applied for using two main procedures in the courts - simplified procedure and ordinary procedure. The simplified procedure is a low cost, simple method of obtaining a divorce/dissolution in cases where there are no children under 16 and no monetary claims by one spouse or partner against another[6]. If a divorcing couple cannot agree about the grounds for the divorce, or issues about the children, money or property the divorce application will go to court as a defended case.

The latest data on marriages and civil partnerships registered can be found in the Marriages and Civil Partnerships section of the National Records of Scotland website.

On 12 March 2014, The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 received Royal Assent. Following this Act, the first same sex marriage ceremonies took place in Scotland on 31 December 2014. In addition, couples in civil partnerships registered in Scotland are able to change their relationship into a marriage.

Divorce and Dissolution Statistics

Statistics on divorce and dissolution of a civil partnership were previously presented in the Divorces and Dissolutions in Scotland bulletin. The final bulletin in that series presented information about divorces and dissolutions in 2009-10. Statistics for 2010-11 and onwards have been included within the Civil Justice Statistics in Scotland bulletin series.

The divorce and dissolution statistics from Table 9 and Table 10 are derived from different Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service data to the other statistics in this bulletin. See the section on Divorce and dissolution data sources for more information.

Further statistics, broken down by characteristics such as age at marriage/partnership, age at divorce/dissolution, duration and form of marriage/partnership, are available on the Civil Justice Statistics in Scotland website within the Divorce & Dissolutions supplementary tables.

The number of divorces has seen a downward trend with a slow decline from around 13,300 in 1985 to 9,619 in 2013-14. The main exception to this trend was the sharp rise in divorces in 2006. This rise can be attributed to the reduction in non-cohabitation periods required to prove irretrievable breakdown of a marriage brought into force by the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 (Figure 10).

The total number of divorces granted in Scotland in 2013-14 was 9,619, one per cent less than in 2012-13 (9,691). In 2013-14, 61 per cent of divorces granted used the simplified procedure (59 per cent in 2012-13) and 39 per cent used the ordinary procedure (41 per cent in 2012-13) (Table 9).

There were 61 civil partnership dissolutions granted in 2013-14, down from 67 in 2012-13. The vast majority of dissolutions granted in 2012-13 (94 per cent) and 2013-14 (89 per cent) used the simplified procedure (Table 10).

Figure 10: Downward trend of divorces since 1985

Figure 10: Downward trend of divorces since 1985

Table 9: Divorces granted in the civil courts by procedure, 2010-11 to 2013-14

Year Court Ordinary Simplified Total
2013-14 Court of Session 27 52 79
Sheriff Court 3,686 5,854 9,540
Total 3,713 5,906 9,619
2012-13 Court of Session 33 73 106
Sheriff Court 3,937 5,648 9,585
Total 3,970 5,721 9,691
2011-12 Court of Session 23 75 98
Sheriff Court 4,032 5,749 9,781
Total 4,055 5,824 9,879

1. The statistics in this table and Table 10 do not equal the total number of disposals for divorce and dissolution shown in Table 6 and Table 7. This is because the statistics in Table 6 and Table 7 include all disposals of divorce/dissolution cases whereas this table and Table 10 only include divorces and dissolutions that were actually granted. In addition the statistics in this table and Table 10 were derived from a different data extract. See section on Divorce and dissolution data sources.

Table 10: Dissolutions granted in the civil courts by procedure, 2010-11 to 2013-14

Year Court Ordinary Simplified Total
2013-14 Court of Session 0 3 3
Sheriff Court 7 51 58
Total 7 54 61
2012-13 Court of Session 0 3 3
Sheriff Court 4 60 64
Total 4 63 67
2011-12 Court of Session 0 3 3
Sheriff Court 3 40 43
Total 3 43 46

1. The statistics in this table and Table 9 do not equal the total number of disposals for divorce and dissolution shown in Table 6 and Table 7. This is because the statistics in Table 6 and Table 7 include all disposals of divorce/dissolution cases whereas this table and Table 9 only include divorces and dissolutions that were actually granted. In addition the statistics in this table and Table 9 were derived from a different data extract. See section on Divorce and dissolution data sources.

Figure 11 and Figure 12 show the proportion of divorces and dissolutions that were granted from 2010-11 to 2013-14 by reason for divorce/dissolution[7]. Non-cohabitation for two years (68 per cent in 2013-14) and non-cohabitation for one year with consent (26 per cent in 2013-14) were the two most common reasons for divorce. The reasons for divorce have not changed a great deal since 2010-11.

Non-cohabitation for two years was the most common reason for dissolution in 2013-14, accounting for 51 per cent (up from 30 per cent in 2010-11). Non-cohabitation for one year was the next most common reason for dissolution, accounting for 43 per cent of dissolutions in 2013-14 (down from 65 per cent in 2010-11). The pattern of reasons for dissolution has been changing since 2010-11 and now looks more similar to that seen for divorce.

Figure 11: Divorces granted by reason, 2010-11 to 2013-14

Figure 11: Divorces granted by reason, 2010-11 to 2013-14

Figure 12: Dissolutions granted by reason, 2010-11 to 2013-14

Figure 12: Dissolutions granted by reason, 2010-11 to 2013-14


Contact

Email: Alasdair Anthony