Getting divorced is about to get even more expensive, thanks to a move by the Ministry of Justice to raise the cost of lodging the necessary court petition.
So if you have a divorce petition lying around gathering dust get it into the court ASAP, because from Monday it'll cost you another £140 — increasing from £410 to £550 (34 percent).
The price hike has caused an enormous amount of controversy, with solicitors revealing the amount charged is way above the actual cost of the legal procedure.
Marilyn Stowe, a senior partner at Stowe Family Law, told The Law Society Gazette: "The petition fee is already exorbitant and unjustified given the actual cost of a divorce is circa £270. It is wrong to overcharge those who have no choice simply because they are a captive audience, not least when this relates to the justice system."
Family lawyers only learnt that the fee increase would go ahead on March 21 from emails sent out by divorce units, which referenced the increase just a few days before it comes into effect.
The Ministry of Justice has denied the measure has been "rushed in" and said the extra income is to boost funding for the justice system in anticipation of further cuts following the chancellor's latest budget.
Effectively people wanting to divorce are being taxed for the pleasure.
"[The] increase may lead to people unable to afford the fee remaining legally and financially tied to their former partner long after the relationship has ended," warned Jo Edwards, a solicitor and chair of Resolution. "Increasing fees will disproportionately impact women, who constitute two-thirds of those initiating divorce proceedings. The extent of the rise could, as the judiciary and others have warned, lead to women being trapped in unhappy or violent marriages."
Edwards added that the government should have waited until the House of Commons Justice Select Committee published the findings of its inquiry into court fees.
"Instead, the way in which this has been gone about, with no formal consultation or announcement, demonstrates a shocking lack of transparency from government," she said. "The manner in which they're implementing this increase, by calling courts today and instructing them to charge more from Monday, is not how a responsible government department should act."
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson told The Guardian: "Fees are never popular, but they are necessary if we are to reduce the burden of the courts and tribunals on the taxpayer. We have sought to protect the vulnerable at every stage. That is why we have a remission scheme to protect and help those who cannot afford to pay. These fee increases have not been brought forward; they are being introduced on schedule."
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