It has gone almost unnoticed, but in the past few days the cost of divorce has increased significantly.
A substantial 34% hike in divorce fees was put into force from Monday March 21st, despite protests from within the family law community, which we at Dale & Newbery are very much part of.
The manner in which the increases have been introduced has been particularly exasperating. After all, it was last summer when the MOJ consulted on court fee rises, including a proposed rise in divorce fees from £410 to £550.
The proposed changes had gone on under the radar, and it was only late last week that the news seeped out via emails from the Ministry of Justice.
Both houses of parliament have given the go-ahead to the increases, which we find disappointing, as we believe the petition fee was already too high.
The legal community have been very vocal, some describing it as a tax on divorce, giving people no choice but to pay.
We sympathise with all those going through the process of divorce, which is always a very difficult one. It must be particularly infuriating for those who have received incorrect information as to the charge for lodging a divorce petition, and haven’t had the time to issue their petition before the increase of fee.
However, this change has now come into force and will be payable when a petition for divorce is issued regardless of whether people mediate, negotiate their own financial agreement or go to court.
The MOJ has said there is a remission scheme to help those who cannot afford to pay the full fees, but this will apply in only a small minority of cases.
A media spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said: “Fees are never popular, but they are necessary if we are to reduce the burden of the courts and tribunals on the taxpayer. We have sought to protect the vulnerable at every stage. That is why we have a remission scheme to protect and help those who cannot afford to pay. These fee increases have not been brought forward. They are being introduced on schedule.”
This statement provides little comfort. The fact is that divorce is an expensive and stressful process in the lives of many, and it has sadly just become pricier.
Please contact our family law department on 01784 464 491 if you need any advice on these changes or any other family law issues. We are always happy to help.