Resolution has responded to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation that proposes changes to selected court and tribunal fees, which aim to contribute to the continuous improvement of His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service and reduce the cost to the taxpayer to fund its services.
The government sought views from users of the impacted jurisdictions of HMCTS, the legal profession, the judiciary, the advice sector, the voluntary sector, and all those with an interest in the work of HMCTS.
This response has been prepared by Resolution. Resolution is committed to developing and promoting best standards in the practice of family law amongst both its members and amongst family lawyers in general.
Resolution is very pleased that it is not being suggested that family court fees associated with the breakdown of family relationships should be set purely on the basis of cost of the service provided by the courts.
We feel strongly that any court fees associated with relationship breakdown should not lead to profit for HMCTS. This is especially so in relation to fees for divorce, nullity or civil partnership which must already be at a level significantly above the cost of the service.
For one thing, people don’t have any choice but to incur those fees. If they wish to get divorced, they need to pay the divorce fee; they are not choosing to litigate. For another, with the move to online divorce and the introduction of no fault divorce from April 2022, divorce has become more of an administrative process and (we assume) less costly to administer. This should be reflected in the level of fee. More broadly, given that there are various initiatives underway to divert more family cases away from the courts (e.g. the Supporting Earlier Resolution consultation in March 2023, government response awaited), careful consideration should be given to whether any scheme of court fees should ‘reward’ those who reach early agreements