Ministry of justice U-Turns on 10% hike on divorce court fees after concerns for women raised

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced a number of changes to court and tribunal fees, however, divorce fees will remain at the same rate of £593, after a proposed 10% increase.

The U-turn comes after being told higher fees ‘could force couples to remain in unhappy or abusive relationships’ by consultation respondents. There was a particular concern with the outcome for females- as they apply for divorce at a higher rate than men.

In 2016 former president of the High Court Sir James Munby said that those who want a divorce are being ‘penalised’ for doing so due to high court fees.

The consultation response said:

‘They stated that women tend to face more difficulties when navigating the justice system as they may have caring responsibilities and are statistically more likely to be on lower incomes given the gender pay gap.

“Several respondents also highlighted that applying for a divorce is a distress purchase for many, and that those who want to end their marriage have no choice but to go through the courts. One respondent quoted the comments made by former president of the family division of the High Court, Sir James Munby in the justice select committee’s 2016 report on divorce and probate, specifically that divorce involves a “captive market”, with “no elasticity in demand” and that those who want a divorce are being penalised for doing so because of high court fees.”

After revealing plans to raise up to £42m extra a year by increasing 202 court fees by 10%, the Ministry of Justice confirmed in a consultation response document published this week that only 170 fees will be increased.

Law Society of England and Wales president Nick Emmerson said:

“We welcome that the MoJ has recognised the feedback provided to its consultation.

“In our response, the Law Society made it clear we did not agree with the proposed increase to the divorce application fee, stating that the divorce process has been simplified and is now an almost entirely digital online experience, meaning less scrutiny is required and less resource from the court service is needed.

“It’s positive, therefore, that they have taken account of the concerns raised and decided not to increase this fee.”

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