Confusion and Financial Hardship will be caused by Divorce Fee Increase to £550 on Monday 21st March 2016

The Ministry of Justice has today informed solicitors that the court fee for a divorce is being increased from £410 to £550 next Monday. To announce this with notice of less than a week is inexcusable. Across the land unhappy couples contemplating divorce will now face the dilemma of either starting proceedings at a time that is right for them, or rushing to the court before the end of the week in order to save £140. This is hardly conducive to lowering the stress of such proceedings or to any final chances of reconciliation. And that of course depends on whether they actually know about this fee increase. Solicitors will have given costs estimates on the basis of a court fee of £410 and of course these can no longer be relied upon.

In times of austerity when financial pressures on families can contribute to marriage breakdown our politicians should remember that a divorce is not something that is consumed as an economic choice. To divorcing couples the choice isn’t simply to save the fee and stay together. And all too often it is families with children who are the most effected.

It used to be that a proportion of divorcing couples were eligible to legal aid because they were on certain benefits or received a low income. Such families typically had children. But now unless domestic abuse can be proved (which is difficult under the rules laid down by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012) legal aid is not available. This means that the very families who already face the most financial challenges in these times of austerity are now going to have to find an extra £140.

There are of course fee remissions available and if anyone is in any doubt as to whether they may be eligible they should apply. A guide to fee remissions is available on the Ministry of Justice website.

This is just the last of a series of eye watering increases in this fee with little or no justification, and sadly it’s unlikely to mean that the service will be improved. There will no doubt be the same logjams at the court, the same delays in paperwork being dealt with.

In summary

Are you outraged by this hike in the court fee for divorce? Or do you think it’s a good way of financing our justice system? We would love to hear from you with your opinion so please leave us a comment.

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JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions.

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