November 7, 2014

Government shelves taxing the vulnerable on divorce – for the time being?

The Independent reports that Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling has ‘quietly shelved’ plans to double the cost of filing for divorce.

The controversial proposal, which seems to have divided the coalition government, would have seen fees rocket from £410 to £750.

Part of wider plans to increase the cost of going to court in England and Wales in certain types of cases, the proposal was in line with the government’s argument that “hardworking taxpayers” should not have to “subsidise disputes between multimillionaires.”

It is quite absurd that the government removed Legal Aid for most family matters and then even considered hiking the fees for divorce to almost double – once again hitting the most vulnerable people and not those multi-millionaires the government believes it is funding.

So this news should be welcome. However the cynics amongst us wonder if ‘shelved’ means permanent removal of the plans, or have they just been set aside temporarily?

The true cost of an uncontested divorce petition is £270, therefore the government makes an estimated £16.8m profit out of divorce. An unnamed member of the judiciary described the fee increase plan as a “novel concept” representing “a departure from the Government’s policy of not charging more than a service costs.”

On top of the cost of the current £410 fee, anyone wanting to issue an application for financial issues to be resolved must pay an additional £255. If the shelved fee increase is dusted down and implemented – and I believe it will be – then the total cost of divorce court fees will be more than £1,000.

The government is already profiting from the misery of many thousands of couples. It’s almost as if some politicians view divorce as a lifestyle choice, so should be taxed like smoking and drinking.

A key difference is that heavy smokers and drinkers can turn to the NHS for free help, advice and support to quit. Separating couples will be left to foot a £1,000 bill for the privilege of a DIY divorce with no professional help or advice at all.

What do you think about the cost of court fees – would you be prepared to pay more?

If you have any questions about separation or divorce please call us on 0113 246 0055, leave us a comment below or drop us an e-mail.