Court fees for non-molestation and occupation orders are to be scrapped under new plans to assist victims of domestic violence.
The changes have been made under the Family Proceedings Fees (Amendment) Order 2014/811, which states that the £75 fee for domestic violence injunctions will be abolished on 22nd April this year.
More than 20,000 applications for non-molestation orders were made in 2012. Legal professionals have raised concerns that high court fees can prevent vulnerable women from seeking protection from the courts.
It is hoped that these changes will make court services more accessible to victims of domestic violence.
Court Minister Shailesh Vara explained the motive behind the changes:
“We have one of the best legal systems in the world and we are making sure our courts are properly resourced so that they can continue to build on their excellent reputation. These fee changes will make sure hardworking taxpayers are not having to subsidise those using our civil courts.
“I want to emphasise that we will protect vulnerable groups by keeping fees the same for sensitive family issues including adoption applications and child contact. Moreover, we are scrapping the fee for domestic violence injunctions to make sure there are no unnecessary barriers between people and the help they need.
“And people who cannot afford court fees do not have to pay – they can apply for waivers using the means-tested remissions system.”
To make up for the shortfall caused by the fee cuts, other civil court fees are to be adjusted. There will be an increase in the fees for cases involving claims for money (for example when someone makes a claim for compensation) on a sliding scale, with a maximum fee of £1, 920 .
It is suggested that a standard fee of £280 is introduced for civil cases which are not about claims for money (applying for someone to be declared insolvent or to repossess property for example) – instead of the current mixture of fees.
Fees will stay the same for cases involving sensitive family issues including child contact (£215), divorce financial disputes (£255) and adoption applications (£170) There will be a reduction in the fee for local authorities to apply to take a child into care (from £5,475 to £2,055).
What are non-molestation and occupation orders?
Non-molestation orders are granted by the court and prevent an abuser (it could be a partner or ex-partner) from using or threatening violence against you or your children, or intimidating you or pestering you. The court grants a non-molestation order if they think that it is necessary to ensure the health, safety and well-being of yourself and your children.
Occupation Orders are granted by the court and have the effect of preventing an abuser from living in the family home. These orders can also prevent a person from entering the surrounding area of a home, or even from entering certain streets. If you do not feel safe continuing to live with your partner, or if you have left home because of violence, but want to return and exclude your abuser, you may want to consider applying for an occupation order.