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Senior judges criticise divorce fee increase

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”.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Luke says:

    ‘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”.’
    This made me smile, perhaps some in the legal profession are upset the state is cutting in on their game 🙂
    Anyway, the smarter members of the general public who have much to lose are finding their own solution to all this – they are simply not marrying at all.

  2. JamesB says:

    I agree with Luke. I wonder at what point will the Government take notice of the decrease in first marriages per head of population. I think they should take notice and do something about it, like reform divorce with pre nups. Making divorce more expensive is rather avoiding the point.

    Sorry Nordic, but I don’t want to end up in an enlightened society like Sweden where most people live alone because they can’t agree the terms of work or marriage or divorce. We need proper laws for these things rather than the farce of family law in this country which people see as wrong and needs changing. Not far to look for change, Scotland and France both have fair systems in this area, in that order of preference for me. Bottom of the list of decent family law courts worldwide is England and Wales, just lower than ISIS. At least they don’t stitch up their men in dodgy divorces.

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