In an initial consultation on court fees the Government wanted to raise the fee up to £750, a whopping 80% increase. This idea was scrapped in January 2015.
The Ministry of Justice anticipates that the increase in a wide range of court fees will bring in an extra £60 million a year. The Government’s intention with the fee increases is to make the court system as self funding as possible.
The full consultation documents can be read here.
For those on a low income there is a means tested scheme which allows part or all of a court fee to be cancelled. This is for people on a low income or certain benefits.
Up until October 2015 the ‘Fee Remission’ scheme was known for its complexity. The court required that applicants submitted extensive evidence of their means and the calculation was so complicated it took up a great deal of time for court staff.
The new ‘Help with Fees’ system is based on the same means test as the ‘Fee Remission’ scheme but the documentary evidence is no longer required. The new scheme will ask for documentation for one in ten applicants as a random quality check.
Whilst the administration of the Help with Fees scheme should be easier, it will continue to be the case that only those on benefits such as Income Support will be able to avoid the court fee altogether. For more information on the Help with Fees system see this link.
Since the cuts to legal aid in April 2013 many people no longer have recourse to legal advice and are dealing with divorce themselves. The court fee is mandatory and there are real concerns that this increase will mean some people simply will not be able to afford to get divorced.
Taylor&Emmet is committed to helping divorcing couples reach a settlement out of court, therefore reducing additional court fees. As a member of Dovetail, we promote collaborative law and mediation as alternatives ways of divorcing and you can find out more about this in Michaela Heathcote’s recent blog.