The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has introduced a 34% increase in divorce fees from £410 to £550 with effect from today, 21 March 2016, despite strong opposition from family lawyers.

In July 2015, the MoJ consulted on a round of court fee rises, including a proposed rise in divorce fees from £410 to £550. Parliament has now approved the proposed fees.

Commenting on the increase, Penningtons Manches family law partner, Simon Blain, said: “The Ministry of Justice has announced a very significant hike in the fee for issuing divorce proceedings to £550 at extremely short notice and without consultation. The 34% increase was announced on 17 March and will take effect from 21 March, meaning that very few couples were able to start proceedings before the fees rise.

“All couples going through divorce have to pay the fee, regardless of whether they are able to reach an amicable agreement about their finances and arrangements for the children. An increase in the divorce petition fee is therefore a “divorce tax”, which will affect all divorcing couples apart from the very small proportion who qualify for a fee exemption. Two thirds of petitioners are women, who will be disproportionately affected by this fee increase.

“The MoJ has previously stated that the administrative cost of processing a divorce is £270, leading to the suspicion that the increase is intended to fill a hole in the Court Service budget.”