Commencing this week, the Ministry of Justice has implemented an increase in divorce court fees from £410 to £550. This rise in fees has been met with mixed reactions. With ongoing budget cuts to legal aid and confirmation of widespread court closures, is raising court fees really the appropriate solution? What justification has been given for the rise in costs? Let us examine the debate for and against the divorce fee increase and you can decide where you stand on the issue.
Finances are a sensitive issue among divorcing spouses so it’s likely that the general public will not be pleased to hear about the increase in fees. Users may believe that it is wrong to charge more in fees in light of the cuts to legal aid. Also, those who were in the process of consulting with a divorce lawyer but had not filed their application yet will have been given wrong advice in terms of fees. To a wealthy divorcing spouse, an increase £140 may not make much of a difference. But what happens to vulnerable persons with limited or no income applications who need to file a petition for divorce? They can apply for fee remittance but may not qualify.
Ministry of Justice Views
In response to concerns raised about how the increase in fees would impact vulnerable members of society, Ministry of Justice representatives have been quick to respond that they will protect such vulnerable people by ensuring remedies are available, up to and including a waiving of fees, as applicable.
With respect to the justification for the fee increase, the Ministry of Justice defends its decision by announcing that that it will help to generate £60million a year in extra income. So while the fee increase is not a popular option, the Ministry of Justice alleges it’s a necessary response to economic concerns
Legal Profession Reactions
Legal professionals have raised concerns that the increase is an ill-advised move to raise fees without proper justification (i.e. by way of a published report on the inquiry into court fees). While the government may have done an impact assessment behind closed doors before they came to finalise this proposal to increase fees, publicly it may be perceived as an arbitrary decision. In order to appear to be more transparent, it would be beneficial to publish the findings and allow the public to absorb the information and have a chance to raise concerns as users of the court system.
If you need any advice on how the increase in court fees affects your application, please contact a specialist at Grayfords.
by Pooja Sihra
Pooja is a guest blogger for Grayfords. Pooja is an international, post-graduate LLB candidate studying at City University London. She received her BA (Hon.) in Law and Society/Sociology in 2009 as well as a Master’s in Public Policy, Administration and Law in 2013 from York University in Toronto, Canada. Her interest in family law developed after navigating the challenges of acting as an estate trustee without a will in a family matter.