On the 1st of July drastic changes were made to divorce filing fees in the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court has seen costs rise by $355, an almost 42% increase from the previous set amount. Within the time span of almost 5 years, the federal government has consistently escalated the application for divorce filing fees from the initial considerably low amount of $432.
Divorce fees have increased gradually over these years as the government has been attempting to seek out about $90 million from court fee increases for their budgets. The costs rise has had reverberations around all aspects of the legal community and other relevant parties. The Australian Tax Office has already issued statements that they will litigate the fee hike as processing matters in the Federal Court has become too expensive over the years. However those who are going to be most impacted is the average, everyday Australian family.
Such a fee hike will deny people from accessing justice due to their financial vulnerability. The Rule of Law Institute, in their 2013 inquiry submitted that antithetical to the concept of access to justice that divorce filing fees should be made inaccessible. Divorce often comes hand in hand with dire economic consequences for the parties and the filing fee might heighten those personal problems by penalising the person who seeks to apply for divorce. Additionally such fee hikes will also act as a barrier to females who have been victims of domestic violence from seeking out a divorce as they will not be able to afford it. Due to the federal government’s actions in relation to court fees, many solicitors are cautioning that some of their poorest clients will not be able to file for a divorce as the monetary costs will act as barrier.
The government’s gradual cost increasing system will unintentionally restrict the right to seeking a divorce to those belonging to the middle and high-class income earners. In the alternative, the government states that parties filing for divorce have sufficient time to gather the funds to cover the costs that Family Court and Federal Circuit Court are demanding. However in a recent judgement handed down by the Court, application for divorce filing fees have now gone back to the previous cost of $845.
If you are looking to apply for divorce, or require legal advice in relation to a family law matter, give us a call on 02 8917 8700 or fill out the enquiry box and we will get back to you ASAP!