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Report Urges Govt to Rescind Divorce Fee Increase

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20 Jun 2016 14:16 #480115 by rubytuesday
Topic posted by rubytuesday
The Justice Select Committee has today published the findings of its inquiry into recent rises in court fees.

From the Report:

"Major changes are urgently needed to restore an acceptable level of access to the employment tribunals system, says the Justice Committee in its report on recent and proposed changes to fees for court users in the civil and family courts and tribunals. The introduction of issue fees and hearing fees for claimants in employment tribunals in July 2013 has led to a drop of almost 70% in the number of cases brought.

The Committee has no objection to the principle of charging fees to court users: it says that some degree of financial risk is an important discipline for those considering legal action. The question is what is an acceptable amount to charge, taking into account the need to preserve access to justice: this will vary between jurisdictions and different types of cases.

Factors which need to be taken into account include the effectiveness of fee remission, the vulnerability of claimants and their means in comparison with respondents, which may pose particular problems of inequality of arms when individuals or small businesses are seeking to uphold their rights against the state or major companies – and the degree of choice which litigants have in whether to use the courts to resolve their cases and achieve justice. The report argues that there should be a clear and justifiable relationship in the fee system between these factors and the degree of financial risk that litigants should be asked to bear.

The Committee concluded that the introduction of fees set at a level to recover or exceed the full cost of operation of the court requires particular care and strong justification.

Committee Chair Bob Neill MP said:

"Where there is conflict between the objectives of achieving full cost recovery and preserving access to justice, the latter must prevail.""

Among the Committee''s recommendations are:

The increase in the divorce petition fee, from £410 to £550, should be rescinded

A pilot scheme should be set up of a system in which there is a graduated or sequential system of fee payments whenever there are substantial fees payable in total in respect of a case in the civil of family courts or tribunals, allied with the requirement for the respondent to pay a fee


The Ministry of Justice should take up the Law Society''s suggestion that it should introduce a system for regular rerating of remission thresholds to take account of inflation, and that it should conduct a further review of the affordability of civil court fees and the remission system, considering means of simplification, for example through automatic remission for all basic rate taxpayers.


More details on the report here - Access to justice damaged by courts and tribunals fees changes

*Given that the actual cost of processing a divorce application and the associated work involved with the Nisi and Absolute is only £280, increasing the petition fee to a staggering £550 is simply a tax on divorce. Many people have been faced with financial hardship as a result of the increase, as well as those who were simply overwhelmed by the thought of having to find such a large - and to them an unobtainable - sum of money that they have had little choice but to remain in unhealthy and unhappy marriages - and in a number of cases, in abusive marriages. It is a shameful state of affairs, and takes financial advantage of court users when they are at thier lowest ebb - a legal divorce can not be obtained without making an application to the Court. Access to Justice is becoming narrower and narrower until soon it will be the privilege of the well-off and denied to the poor. Rant over! (My personal view, and not necessarily the view of Wikivorce)

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