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Family law court fees expected to increase in May 2024

View profile for Shaili Gohil-Desai
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The government has announced that it will increase one-hundred and seventy two court and tribunal fees by 10% in May 2024, court fees having increased previously in 2016 and 2021. The increase this time comes following a government consultation paper which considered the 17.8% increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) between March 2021 when court fees were last reviewed up until March 2023.

Whilst the CPI measures the change in price of an average ‘basket’ of goods and services that does not include the court fees charged by His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), it has been used here to provide an indication.

A selection of the family law related court fees which are set to increase in May 2024 are:

  • To issue court proceedings to determine a financial settlement – from £275 to £303 (a £28 increase).
  • To issue court proceedings to determine financial provision for a child – from £232 to £255 (a £23 increase). 
  • To issue court proceedings to address the arrangements for any children – from £232 to £255 (a £23 increase).
  • To apply for a parental order – from £232 to £255 (a £23 increase). 

Crucially, it has been decided that there will be no increase to the court fee for applying for a divorce which will remain at £593. Respondents to the government’s consultation paper cited objections to a proposed increase to £652 (an uplift of £59) including:

  • Concerns about the potential impact on access to justice, particularly for women who are “more likely to apply for a divorce than men[1];
  • Concerns that some may be put off by the size of the fee and instead stay in an unhappy or abusive relationship;
  • The court fee of £593 is already high considering the divorce process has only simplified and become more streamlined with the implementation of no-fault divorce in 2022 and the move to a mostly digitised service; and
  • It would penalise those who want a divorce as, in the words of the former President of the Family Division of the High Court, Sir James Munby, in 2016, divorce involves a “captive market”, with “no elasticity in demand[2].

The government has also decided that there is to be a routine review (and update) of court fees every two years, taking into account HMCTS’s costs and changes in the CPI. The next review will therefore take place in 2025/26 for implementation in 2026. To put this in context, court fees reviewed in 2022/23 accounted for 31.6% of the cost to run HMCTS that year, with the remainder funded by the taxpayer. The government has explained that the increase in court fees will help to maintain the system while also reducing the cost to the taxpayer.

For advice on whether you should make your court application before May 2024 to avoid any increase in fees, you should speak to a solicitor who can consider the urgency of your situation with you along with the other costs to be incurred as well as your ability to pay for those fees. Those with lower financial means who are unable to afford a court fee may also benefit from the government’s Help with Fees (HwF) remissions scheme[3].