Partner and Head of Wills & Estate Planning at Andrew & Co Solicitors Helen Newson writes...
Divorce Fee Hike Should Be Revoked
- AuthorJulie Bailey
There has been a lot in the news about the increase in the divorce petition fee, which was introduced by the Ministry of Justice in March, and I for one support the calls for it to be rescinded.
The Justice Select Committee has recently published a report calling for the increase, from £410 to £550, to be revoked.
The Ministry of Justice had originally proposed that the fee should be raised to £750 but proceeded with the lower increase in response to a consultation on court fees. The same fee applies to applications for a decree of nullity or, in the context of civil partnership, for a dissolution order or nullity order.
Welcoming the report, Resolution Chair Nigel Shepherd said: "We are pleased to see the Justice Select Committee has listened to Resolution's evidence and recommended the government rescind the recent rise in fees for divorce petitions.
"The committee rightly recognises that this rise effectively amounted to a new tax on divorce; and that by raising it, people were being charged around twice what it actually costs to process a divorce petition.
"At the time the hike was announced, court staff, our members, and the people they help were given only a few days’ notice of the new fee. We said then that the government should have waited until this report was published.
"Now that it has, we urge Ministers to listen to the Committee, reverse the fee hike, and reimburse the thousands of people who have been unfairly penalised as a result of the divorce tax."
As Nigel Shepheard pointed out in his response the change in the fee was introduced with less than 24 hours notice which meant we had no opportunity to try to avoid the increase for those clients who were on the verge of issuing proceedings and it was rather embarrassing to have to ask clients for a further payment in order to issue.
Undoubtedly the increased fee is a problem for many clients and very few are exempt from payment which is why I’m backing the calls for it to be annulled. The irony of all of this is that the increased fees come alongside the closure of many local courts presumably with a view to the Chancellors office achieving further costs reductions. All of this makes access to justice very difficult for many.