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Resolution condemns 'stealthy implementation' of divorce fee hike

Divorce fee to rise to £550 on 21st March 2016

Commenting on the news that family court fees are set to rise from 21st March 2016, Jo Edwards said:

"The stealthy implementation of the hike in divorce fees, from £410 to £550 (after an increase only two years ago) is scandalous and not backed up by a proper impact assessment. As a result of the steep increase, many people currently in the process of separating will have received incorrect information as to the charge for lodging a divorce petition and, in reality, won't have time to get their petition in before the fee increase takes effect.

"Divorce is not a 'choice to litigate' – it's a necessary part of the legal process to bring a relationship to an end. Whether people mediate, negotiate their own outcome or go to court, they have to pay the divorce petition fee. The actual cost of the administrative process has been shown to be £270, meaning that at new rates the MoJ is making a profit of more than 100% - in effect, levying a divorce tax.

"The 34% increase may lead to people unable to afford the fee remaining legally and financially tied to their former partner long after the relationship has ended. Increasing fees will disproportionately impact women, who constitute two-thirds of those initiating divorce proceedings. The extent of the rise could, as the judiciary and others have warned, lead to women being trapped in unhappy or violent marriages.

"The Government should have waited until the Justice Select Committee, who are currently holding an inquiry into court fees, had published their findings. Instead, the way in which this has been gone about, with no formal consultation or announcement, demonstrates a shocking lack of transparency from government. The manner in which they're implementing this increase, by calling courts today and instructing them to charge more from Monday, is not how a responsible government department should act.

"This will lead to confusion, hardship, and avoidable additional pain for separating couples."

The statutory duidance setting out the new court fees is here. The family court fees are set out at item 10.

17/3/16 (amended 21/3/16)