Currently, there is a fee of £410 to pay when filing a divorce petition with the Court. If the government’s plans come into effect, this fee will be raised to a staggering £750. The government’s plans have been published in the consultation paper ‘Court fees: proposals for reform’ where it is stated that an undefended divorce actually costs approximately £270. The present fee of £410 for filing a divorce petition is already over 1 ½ times more than this. So what is the justification for increasing the fee even further? The consultation paper states the following:
“We believe that divorcing couples would be prepared to pay a higher fee to complete the dissolution of the marriage. We believe that it is right that those who can afford to pay more should do so to ensure that the courts are properly funded.”
In their response to the consultation paper, the Judiciary of England and Wales said the following:
“We do not agree with the proposal that the fee for a divorce petition should be set at £750.”
“The great majority of petitioners are women. Many of them will be of limited means, but not entitled to fee remission and the new fee will be unattainable. They may well forego divorce; and when forming new relationships may prefer to cohabit rather than remarry. Thus, they would lose the many financial and other protections afforded to married women under the existing law. The proposal, therefore, might give rise to an objection that it is indirectly discriminatory because most of the petitioners are women, and because the impact of price increases would affect them disproportionately.”
“In any event, the Consultation Paper advances no evidence either (a) to justify the belief that divorcing couples would be prepared to pay a higher fee to complete the dissolution of the marriage, or (b) to justify the assertion that the captive divorcing market “can afford to pay more”. Nor does it explain why it is right that those who can afford to pay more should do so to ensure that the courts are properly funded.”
In addition to the present fee of £255 for filing an application with the Court for a financial Order (or the fee of £45 if the parties are able to sort out their finances themselves and their agreement is drawn up in a Consent Order), it seems that the cost of obtaining a divorce will be out of reach for many.