Family law organisation, Resolution, has urged MP’s to reconsider a steep rise in family court fees after raising concerns it will put couples at risk of staying in unhappy or abusive relationships.
The Ministry of Justice announced plans to increase the fees from £410 to £550 in July last year, after its previous proposal of £750 was abandoned.
Implementation of the fee will mean that couples wishing to end their marriage will have to pay the cost regardless of whether they solve financial or child access issues through mediation, unlike other legal issues where costly fees are avoided by coming to an agreement outside of court.
Speaking on behalf of Resolution at the House of Commons justice committee meeting in December, Jo Edwards said that the fee would ‘have to be paid come what may,’ comparing the 60% increase to the 42% rise in Australia which was labelled as ‘divorce tax’ not so long ago.
The organisation representing family lawyers across England and Wales have dubbed the rise as an unjustified profit, with estimates showing that the administrative cost for divorce is only £270.
Coupled with the removal of legal aid three years ago, the fee puts individuals at risk by making them stay in unhappy and sometimes abusive relationships, putting justice out of reach at such a high price.
A remission system is in place to help those who struggle to meet the fee, but the limited understanding surrounding its assessment criteria has made it a limited success.
It is hoped that a thorough review will be carried out to assess the impact of the increase to determine whether a further rise will prevent even more people pursuing their right to justice.