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For Richer, For Poorer - Family Court Fees Hike

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In the wake of George Osborne’s Budget this week, it has been announced that some Court fees will increase.
While on the face of it an increase might chime with the idea that prices usually go up rather than down, for Pinney Talfourd's Family Law Department the effect of the Divorce Petition fee increase is more complex. From Monday 21 March, the Divorce Petition fee will increase by 34% from £410 to £550. There was no warning of this.

Divorce is a legal course of action that is rarely approached with joy. It is a difficult decision. Sometimes couples fall out of love and agree it as a best course of action. More commonly however it follows a painful period in people’s lives. Paying a considerable sum to start this exercise will do nothing to abate stress, anxiety or the financial challenge of dividing a combined life into two separate lives, usually with several children to put first.

There is of course the argument that HM Courts & Tribunals Service is under unprecedented strain and threat of cut backs. The Petition fee increase will indeed help in the administration of divorces. They will be able to turn them around faster and the Courts will work more efficiently. However, divorce is a unique legal course of action. Increasing the fees places a higher brick wall in front of those in need of legal assistance in their personal lives at the most difficult of times. Of course there are exemptions from fees but these are limited and the process of being granted an exemption can itself be time consuming and stressful.

The Pinney Talfourd Family Law Department  are all active members of Resolution, whose 6,500 members are committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes following a Code of Practice that promotes a non-confrontational approach. One of the firm’s family law solicitors, Sebastian Burrows, who is also Chair of Resolution Essex, says “Resolution fights hard to dampen the flames of divorce. A fee increase simply adds more petrol.”

Of all the legal procedures, a divorce in which there is scope for a non-confrontational solution merits fee relief. Higher fees will potentially leave people stranded in the position they need to escape. Otherwise it forces people to tackle complex legal matters alone, in turn burdening the Courts Service.

Richard Bacon MP is pushing his Private Members Bill to implement a No-Fault Divorce further to dampen the flames at this highly sensitive time. The Californians have ‘Irreconcilable Differences’ as a route to divorce. To obtain a divorce in this country requires the Petitioner to prove one of the ‘five facts’, 3 of which require the parties having lived apart for over 2 years and there is no ‘catch all ground’ for those only recently or not yet separated.

It seems that this particular court fee hike is steering the divorce ship away from it’s path towards amicable solutions and financial efficiency into old stormy seas.

More information

If you would like more information on your options in light of this fee increase please contact our Family Law Department on 01708 229444 or book a free initial family consultation using our online booking form.


This article was written by Sebastian Burrows, Family Law solicitor at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors and Chair of Resolution Essex  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 at March 2016.

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