Family law organisation Resolution has urged MPs to reject plans for a steep rise in family court fees.
The measure would amount to a ‘divorce tax’ said chair Jo Edwards because couples intent on ending their marriages would be obliged to pay the proposed new fee of £550, even if they make use of mediation.
By contrast, people involved in other legal issues could avoid the fees by simply choosing not to go to court.
Speaking at a House of Commons Justice Committee meeting, she explained:
‘This is not an optional fee, this has to be paid come what may.”
A fee of £410 is currently charged by divorce courts but the government announced controversial plans to raise additional revenue by increasing the fee by almost a third earlier this year. Estimates suggest that the actual cost of a divorce is just £270. The planned higher fees represent a “significant profit” said Edwards.
Higher rates could encourage additional courtroom wrangling over who should pay the fee, the Resolution chair suggested.
“This is all against a backdrop of quite a rapid move in family proceedings towards a very much more administrative process …so if anything I would expect that the cost of the divorce process is going down.”
Previous proposals to increase the fee to as much as £750 were later abandoned by the government.
Resolution represents family lawyers across England and Wales committed to “a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters”.