New Family Proceedings and Magistrates Courts fees came into force today that increase the fees payable for proceedings in family cases by 14.12%.
The government says the fee increases are based on the rate of inflation since the date of the last increase, which for the majority of orders was in 2006.
However fees could increase even more next year as the Ministry of Justice implements full-cost recovery fees as part of their 2007 Spending Review strategy. The explanatory note to the Orders states: "This modest increase will provide an effective interim measure to help reduce the family fee shortfall for 2010/11".
Today's increases have not gone to full public consultation as they are "modest" and would have "no impact on business, charities or voluntary bodies", according to the Ministry of Justice.
The fee increases follow the news that nearly half of legal aid firms are to be cut, and the announcement that the government is considering closing 103 magistrates' and 54 county courts. Lawyers argue that these measures will dramatically reduce access to the family justice system.
In 2009/10 court fees raised about £479 million and covered 82% of the full cost of running the civil and family courts which is currently £619 million a year. The full year income forecast for 2010/11, which takes into account the reduction of work seen in 2009/10, has been calculated as £467m, which shows a £45m shortfall against the target of £512m.
The Ministry of Justice says: "Family fees have historically been set well below full cost and have benefited from subsidies from undefended debt claims in civil proceedings and from the general taxpayer. This position is unsustainable."