September 2021 marked the increase in various court fees including those for Divorce and Children Act matters.
Issuing a divorce will now cost £593 unless you are entitled to a fee remission. This is an increase from £550 and it arguably begs the question as to an applicant’s ability to access the justice system and be able to afford to separate from their husband/wife when the marriage has broken down. The financial pressures on families, particularly post Covid, are already apparent and increasing the fee means some people may have to remain in an unhappy and sometimes volatile relationship.
If you have been able to afford the fee for the divorce, and you then agree financial matters a further £53 is payable to submit the Consent Order setting out a financial agreement. If, however, you have been unable to secure a financial settlement, mediation has failed, a fee of £275 will be payable to issue an application to the court to consider financial remedy within the divorce. If at the same time, there are difficulties in arranging child arrangements upon separation/divorce then to make an application to the court a further fee of £232 will be payable.
The above fees do not consider the legal advice and support the client may need throughout these sometimes complex and emotionally driven proceedings.
Access to justice
It is hard to understand why the fees have to be increased in this way particularly when access to justice within family proceedings should be paramount as it can have consequences not only upon the adults but any children of the family. Children may have to remain in a “hostile” and “tense” environment simply because it is unaffordable to begin the process of separation.
Furthermore, it is hard to justify these cost increases to clients particularly when they are being forced to have to wait for months to have an initial hearing before the court upon the issue of an application. There needs to be serious consideration of the balance between the fees payable and the need for a party wanting to issue divorce proceedings and consequences of when this is unaffordable and no fees remission available.
Often, when times are so serious, it may be that due to the high fee payable the client is unable to access legal advice and sometimes be bullied or forced into a situation they have no choice about. It may indeed be argued that any increase in fees is a further reduction in accessibility to the family court.
For more information on divorce or financial remedy proceedings, please contact our family team here.
This article was written by Angela Sharma, Senior Associate. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of October 2021.