How much will my divorce cost? It all adds up
It is of course of huge concern to clients how much they will need to pay for their divorce. Whilst legal fees between firms may differ, one consistent fee is the court fee. When the divorce petition is sent into the court there is a court fee. When I first qualified as a family law solicitor nearly 10 years ago, I think the fee was around £300. I have seen it increase over the years to the current fee of £410. This is understandably a lot of money for many people to find, particularly at one of the most difficult and stressful times in their lives.
Despite much opposition from family law practitioners it now appears that the government are set to increase the court fee from £410, to £550 – a 34% increase. This will be made law, and indeed it seems there was no real opposition to the increase apart from one lone Labour MP, Dennis Skinner. He insisted there be a vote but his was the only dissenting vote. It is not clear exactly when this increase will take effect, but I am certainly encouraging clients to move swiftly if they want to avoid the extra cost.
It seems extraordinary that a fee increase of this degree is being introduced at a time when there are huge delays being experience in the south of the country, following the government's introduction of the single family court in 2014. As a family law solicitor practising in Hampshire, I have certainly found since this came in, divorce cases are taking much longer due to court delays. A new centralised South West Regional Divorce Centre was set up for our region, and the delays are now much worse. The court's automated telephone message says they are taking 25 to 30 working days to process any paperwork they receive. It is hard, therefore, to see the justification for any increase in the court fee.
It remains to be seen what impact this might have on the service the court provides, and whether the increased fee will improve matters. It will no doubt make things harder in the meantime for many needing to access the court in this way. For help with any aspect of your divorce, please contact me or another member of the Family team.