Senior judges have warned that plans to increase court fees for divorce could leave couples stuck in loveless relationships.
The government plans to push up the fees to £550, an increase of more than a third from the current cost of £410. Ministers estimate this will save £16.8 million each year and reduce the burden on taxpayers. They insist that the increase is a “financial imperative”.
However, the Judicial Executive Board (JEB) has condemned the proposals. An increase in fees would “diminish significantly” the number of people who can access justice as many would simply be unable to afford it. The JEB is made up of several of the most senior judges in the country, including President of the Family Division Sir James Munby.
They said there was “something unappetising about the state making a growing profit on a legal necessity and a source of unhappiness for many people”.
They claimed that the rise in fees would have “adverse effects on partners and children” which would include “the potential for unhappy marriages to continue”.
The JEB is set to be present evidence to the Commons justice committee’s inquiry on court fees this week. The senior judges said they had been given “no reasoned explanation” why the proposed increase will not stop people seeking a divorce.
Ministers have increased divorce fees in stages over the last two years and, according to The Times, the fees are now 600 per cent higher than they were in 2013.
Earlier this year, the Law Society called for the divorce fee increases to be scrapped. The organisation’s president Andrew Smithers said a rise in court fees would “render ordinary people’s legal rights meaningless because they simply would not be able to afford to enforce them”.