Jo Edwards, the chair of family law organisation Resolution, has this week given evidence to MPs on the Justice Select Committee regarding the UK Government’s plans to charge more for divorce fees.
Earlier in 2015, the Government released plans that essentially meant the cost of getting a divorce would rise from £410 to £550, shortly after the fee had already gone up from £340 to £410.
Resolution’s stance is that many people seeking a divorce are already facing financial hardship, without having to pay more than the current fee level.
The organisation has also criticised the Government by stating that there has not been enough of a consultation period or assessment to get a full picture of the impacts another fee rise would have.
There are widespread concerns that more people will decide against formally ending their marriages if the charge goes up again, and this could have repercussions on how arrangements are made for a couple’s children and finances.
Another fear expressed by Resolution is that some people will feel trapped in unhealthy relationships.
The organisation has asked the Government to conduct a full impact assessment before any fee increase to £550 is passed, to ensure that people do not avoid obtaining a divorce because of the additional financial pressure.
Jo Edwards said: “I’m grateful for the opportunity to raise the very serious concerns Resolution has about the proposed divorce fee increase with the Justice Committee.
“Divorce is not a ‘choice to litigate’ – it’s a necessary part of the legal process to bring a relationship to an end. The increase to £550 may lead to people unable to afford the fee remaining legally and financially tied to their former partner long after the relationship has ended – something that becomes dangerous in cases of abuse.
“It’s important to note that this divorce fee will be payable regardless of whether the parties choose to use an out of court solution such as mediation to resolve money and children issues ancillary to the divorce, or to pursue remedies through the courts, and far outstrips the actual administrative cost of divorce, £270.
“The family courts exist to provide justice, not to make profit and it is not appropriate to make money out of relationship breakdown.”