The government are planning a rise in the fees you pay to get a divorce and this may have a real impact on people who are stuck in unhappy marriages. Senior family court judges are concerned that women will be particularly affected by this new increase in fees. They commented recently that ‘there is something unappetising about the state making a profit on a legal necessity and a source of unhappiness for people’.
Whilst the judiciary are unhappy about this new rise, what are the facts and who will it affect the most?
The plans, that are now the subject of a Common’s Justice Committee Enquiry, are to increase costs by 34 per cent – in real terms this is a rise from £410 to £550. This is the latest in a long line of increases in the cost of divorce. In fact, the cost for a couple getting a divorce has actually gone up by 600 per cent in only two years. This is as a result of the current government pushing the burden from the taxpayer to the individuals involved.
However, the government have not only increased the fees to ensure they cover the cost of the service, they are actually making a profit on divorce – they will take over £66 million in profit each year from unhappy couples and put this towards maintaining the court system.
Whilst for many people £550 to get out of an unhappy marriage may be a price worth paying, it may put a number of people at a real disadvantage and leave them in a position where these fees create a very real barrier to leaving their marriage.
Senior judges, both from the Judicial Executive Board and from the High Court, suggest that people are being encouraged to stay in bad marriages due to financial constraints. The impact on them and on their children could be devastating. They also claim that this goes against one of the fundamentals of British justice – that access to justice should not be sold – everyone should have access regardless of their means. In addition, they fail to understand why people who wish to get divorced should subside the court system.
It seems this issue will continue to be debated for some time.
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