Cost of divorce to rise as Government unveils new fees

Couples applying for divorce will have to pay out £550 under the new rules Credit: PA

Getting divorced is set to become more expensive after the Government announced higher court fees.

Couples applying for divorce will have to pay out £550 under the new rules, £140 more than at present.

Ministers had initially planned to increase the charge by 80% to £750 but opted for a smaller hike.

The measure was announced as part of a series of changes to court fees in a move critics warned could deny individuals and small businesses access to justice.

The Government insisted the most vulnerable would be protected by ensuring remission is available for petitioners who need it, such as women in low wage households.

Other measures include:

• Fees for issuing a possession claim, normally used to evict tenants, in the county court will rise by £75 to £355.

• General applications in civil proceedings will double in cost to £100.

• The cost of contested applications will rise from £155 to £255.

Ministers had initially planned to increase the divorce charge by 80% to £750. Credit: PA

Courts minister Shailesh Vara also announced a consultation on new proposals, including raising the maximum fee for money claims from £10,000 to at least £20,000. Personal injury and clinical negligence claims will be excluded from the higher cap.

Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: "All civil cases, from those filing for divorce to landlords needing their property back are affected by these latest punitive increases which are tantamount to selling justice like a commodity, leaving it out of reach for many ordinary people.

"This will only serve to widen the access to justice gap in our two-tier justice system.

"They will deny individuals and small businesses access to justice, crippling them when trying to recover monies owed to them."

Labour also slammed the move, with shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter saying the proposals showed a contempt "both for court users and Parliament".

But Mr Vara defended the move, saying the courts and tribunals service currently costs £1 billion more a year to run than it receives in income.

Courts minister Shailesh Vara said the most vulnerable people would be protected. Credit: PA

The increases confirmed today, expected to come into force later this year, are expected to generate an extra £60 million a year, while those under consideration could bring in £48 million annually.

Mr Vara said: "At every stage we have sought to protect the most vulnerable by ensuring they will not have to pay new and higher fees and by making the remissions scheme more generous.

"We have also sought to ensure that those who can afford to - such as wealthy individuals or large corporations making very high money claims - will make a bigger contribution."