Along with death and taxes, for those involved in family disputes there are four other certainties – high court fees, heavy legal costs, long waiting times for court hearings and considerable amounts of stress.
For the financial year 2015 – 2016 the cost of filing a Divorce petition in a court in England and Wales is £450.00 (£356.00 for Judicial Separation). In cases where there is no agreement between the parties it is unlikely that whoever files a petition will ever recover any of this money. This would probably apply even where the parties subsequently accept that to some extent they are both to blame for the breakdown of their relationship.
The whole business of paying out court fees does not stop there. If there is a dispute relating to children and a court application is made, whoever starts the proceedings will have to pay something in the region of £200.00. If one party subsequently considers that it is necessary to issue a claim for financial relief e.g. for maintenance or in respect of the possible transfer of ownership of the family home a further court fee of £255.00 is payable.
The court will require formal responses to be filed to any such claims. Such responses will also require a fee. In most cases unless the party making the application is of very limited means there are no exemptions, even for those who are representing themselves.
It is quite conceivable that a couple who are experiencing a difficult or acrimonious relationship breakdown would have to pay out court fees of over £1000.00! This is without any legal fees or any attendant costs such as loss of income for taking time of work to attend court or any related childcare costs.
Additionally, in most cases where family proceedings have been issued there will be long delays. In many parts of England and Wales there is a wait of three months for a half day hearing. In some areas you may have to wait as long as seven months during which time your lawyers will do additional work that may well be justified but nonetheless has to be paid for. In many instances the stress and worry that result from all this delay and expense will take their toll.
This is why increasing numbers of people are seriously considering mediation, even before they consult lawyers. Not only is mediation a confidential and in the majority of cases successful process, but if your case is suitable it could be completely resolved in as little as three months at a fraction of the cost that will be incurred during a protracted court battle. The anticipated substantial cuts in public funding for the court system and the possibility of already very high court fees being increased will only make things worse! In any event in most cases mediation is a much better option for resolving complex or acrimonious disputes than going through the courts.
If one party is petitioning for divorce or judicial separation the initial fee cannot be avoided even in cases where they are in complete agreement. However, the current court fee for applying for a comprehensive consent order agreed during mediation dealing with all issues including finances and disputes about children is only £50.00. It may still be necessary for the disputing parties to consult lawyers but in most instances the mediator will do the important work of taking the parties through the process, preparing a financial schedule and drafting an agreement which can subsequently be placed before the court for approval. The fees that Albert Square Mediation Limited charge are per mediation, not per party and are not subject to VAT. In many instances it may be possible for the parties to agree to divide any incidental court fees between them.
Principal Director of ASM PLUS, civil/commercial, workplace, employment, family and educational mediator and trainer with a judicial/legal background. He has knowledge and expertise in dispute resolution in a wide range of areas and disciplines and mediates online.