Court fee increases

Court fee increases

Stop press: now updated to link to the final Fees Order and the backdating of the Statutory Instrument by the Ministry of Justice.

Original news: The Civil Proceedings, Family Proceedings and Upper Tribunal Fees (Amendment) Order 2016 (the Fees Order) amends Schedule 1 to the Civil Proceedings Fees Order 2008, SI 2008/1053 and Schedule 1 to the Family Proceedings Fees Order 2008, SI 2008/1054 (FPFO, SI 2008/1054), in addition to making amendments to Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) fees.

Which court fees are increasing?

Relevant fees changes for family lawyers set out in the Fees Order are:

  • the fee for applying for a decree of divorce or nullity under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 or to dissolve, or for nullity of, a civil partnership (fee 1.2 of FPFO, SI 2008/1054) is increased from £410 to £550
  • various fees in relation to civil proceedings, but not where the application is made under section 3 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997

When do the changes come into effect?

The Fees Order states that it 'comes into force on the next Monday after the day on which the Order is made'. The date on which the Fees Order was made was not stated on the draft Order made available initially, but was subsequently back-dated to the 16 March 2016. That means that the changes came into effect on Monday 21 March 2016.

We made enquiries of the Divorce Centre at Bury St Edmunds who confirmed their understanding is that the petition fee will increase on 21 March 2016. The court staff also referred to other family court fees that are not included in the Fees Order—we will be monitoring developments and this blog post will be amended to reflect any further information as it becomes available.

What is the background to the increases?

The government issued a consultation on court fee increases. The original proposal was for an increase in the petition issue fee from the current level of £410 to £750. Following the consultation a decision was made to limit the increase to £550.

The Fees Order is a type of Statutory Instrument (SI) known as an 'affirmative instrument'. This means that both Houses of Parliament must expressly approve the SI, but Parliament's room for manoeuvre is limited—it can accept or reject an SI but cannot amend it. The debate in the House of Lords on the motion to approve on 15 March 2016 may be accessed here.

Geraldine Morris is a solicitor and Head of LexisPSL Family.

Twitter: @GeraldineMorris

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