There has recently been a government consultation which closed on the 31 January 2014 proposing that the court fee for divorce be raised from its current level of £410.00 to £750.00 (if this is approved the changes are likely to come into affect from April this year.)
The raise in court fees appears to be inexplicably high with very little justification for it. The paper states that the court system currently runs at a deficit of £100m and that certain applications, divorce included, should increase to lower the burden on the tax payer.
Whilst the paper does not propose increasing the £410.00 issuing fee it argues the overall fee of uncontested divorces should raise to £750.00 (overall divorce fees currently being £410.00). It has long been the basis that the public should not be charged more than the cost of the service when pursuing a legal remedy. However, even now, divorce fees are higher than the cost of producing the service (the costs generated per divorce application is £270.00) so there can be no justification for raising this cost even further.
Courts minister Shailesh Vara said: “Hardworking taxpayers should not have to subsidise millionaires embroiled in long cases fighting over vast amounts of money, and we are redressing that balance.” It is actually very rare for a divorce to be anything other than a paper based application, as only a defended divorce would need to involve litigation, and the finances are dealt with under a separate application. This justification therefore cannot apply to divorce applications.
Resolution has stated “We do not consider the Ministry of Justice’s ‘research in support’ to be robust. For example, only four solicitors were consulted, with little reference to the net worth of their client base, and the solicitors concerned do not seem to have been interviewed about a divorce fee as high as £750. Clients or those using the family courts on an unrepresented basis have not been directly consulted. Whatever the value of the proceedings to them, we believe that this fee will be beyond the reach of many and fees exemption is not widely available.”
The increase in fees is, therefore, likely to leave many couples stuck in unsuccessful marriages or face long periods of separation. This means a lack of closure for many people and a likely increase in conflict between couples.
If you are currently considering divorce it would be wise to issue your application before April this year to avoid the significant increase in fee.Talk to our legal team
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