Earlier this year, the fee payable to His Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service to issue divorce petitions rose (virtually overnight) from £410 to a whopping £550. The House of Commons Justice Committee recommended that this increase should be rescinded, a recommendation that the Government has rejected. In its response to the Committee’s recommendations concerning court and tribunal fees, the Ministry of Justice said:
“Help is available to those who qualify under the fee remissions scheme, known as Help with Fees, which helps to ensure that those who are unable to pay are not denied access to justice. In the circumstances of a divorce (or any other matter where the parties have a contrary interest in proceedings) the applicant is assessed on his or her own, rather than the household’s, means. On this basis, women are more likely to qualify for a fee remission than men.
The new fee of £550 for a divorce came into effect on 21 March. Although it is too soon to draw any firm conclusions, there is no evidence so far that the fee increase has led to a fall in applications for a divorce. We are continuing to monitor the position carefully. Overall, we believe that the fee for a divorce is reasonable when considered against the objectives, generating an estimated £12 million per annum in additional fee income as a contribution to the savings required to make sure that the courts and tribunals are properly funded, and that access to justice is protected.”
Bob Neill MP, Chair of the Justice Committee, said the following in relation to the Government’s response:
“It is disappointing that the Government Response is so negative in respect of the Justice Committee’s recommendations; perhaps more concerning is that it is almost offensively perfunctory, appearing to have been rushed out at short notice and giving little evidence of attention paid to the Committee’s detailed evidence and analysis. This is all the more surprising given that Government has had more than four months to produce this reply. I therefore intend to raise this matter and possible further steps with the Committee at our next meeting.”