The immediate divorce court fee increase

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Divorce court fees are set to rise today from £410 to £550.

When I wrote my previous blog on the fee increase, we family law solicitors did not know if and when this increase was to be implemented. I assumed there would be a formal email from Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) to all family law solicitors confirming when the increase was to happen, and giving a period of notice so that clients could be warned and prepared, and advised appropriately. For example, I met with a new client recently who was thinking about instructing us to draft her divorce petition, but if an announcement had been made which told us in three months' time the court fee would be increasing I could have relayed that to her and she could have made an informed decision about whether to proceed sooner or not.

In the event, I only found out by chance as I happened to be on Twitter on Thursday last week and saw a tweet by the The Law Society Gazette saying the fee increase to £550 is to take effect from Monday 21 March 2016. Needless to say, the comments from practitioners I have seen in response to this stealthy increase are outraged. There has been no notice, no consultation and no justification for any increase as the level of service does not merit it. Please see my previous blog for further details about the delays we experience locally with the South West Regional Divorce Centre.

It remains to be seen how this will impact on people, and their ability to afford to be divorced. Separating married couples, or those in civil partnerships, are of course a captive audience and will have no choice but to pay the fee if they wish legally to end their marriage or civil partnership. They cannot resolve their finances with any certainty unless this is done alongside a divorce or, in the case of a civil partnership, a dissolution.

For help with any aspect of your divorce, please contact me or another member of the family team. We are pleased to offer a 50% discount to new clients for an initial consultation in relation to divorce proceedings.