Divorce court fees to increase yet again

It really shows how, despite all consistently upbeat messages we hear about the economy in the British press, there are still some real underlying problems and lots more, and shall pain to come, when news that there is to be yet another increase in divorce court fees hardly get any publicity.

Earlier this year, the court fee required to issue your divorce was raised to £410. Now comes the news that according to new proposals from the Ministry of Justice, the court fees alone for a simple uncontested divorce, could increase to £750 next spring.

Where did I see this breaking news – on the front of the Law Society Gazette [ the magazine for solicitors in the UK]? No – it was hidden away in the seventh paragraph of an article on page 3. What’s more, I’ve just done some online research, and whilst a couple of newspapers appear to have reported it, largely this latest news has gone unreported.

Getting divorced is never easy, and certainly not cheap. However, making it more expensive to get a simple divorce is only going to increase the pain, for many people. What’s more, I fear, an increasing number of people, having separated, will conclude that they simply can’t afford to get divorced. I suspect that is going to create all sorts of problems – not just with relationships but also with finances – when people find that years later after their relationship has broken down, they still have to sort out the family finances

It’s also worth pointing out that the increase in court fees is not limited to family law – the coalition government are intent on making the courts, not only pay for themselves, but actually to run a profit! Yes, you did read that right – the government actually wants the courts to make a profit! The civil courts in England and Wales currently cost £600 million to run every year – with a £100 million deficit, which has to be paid by the taxpayer. The MoJ hopes that the latest changes will produce an additional income stream of almost £200m every year. Amongst the planned new court fees are a daily hearing fee of £1000 for commercial cases.

Many ordinary people already struggle to pay legal fees – the danger is that this will make it impossible for an increasing number of them to consider using the court system to sort out their legal problems. It sounds like law for the rich but not for the poor to me.

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