Court Fees, Stealth Tax

“The Ministry of Justice announced today that court fees for divorce is to increase from Monday, 21st March from £410 to a whopping £550*, a massive 30% increase. Although this was first discussed last summer, it was not included in the fee increase towards the end of last year so it has come as a surprise to many divorce lawyers. The government appears to ignore the human casualties that often requires a court resolution out of necessity but instead seems hell bent on hiking fees where people are most vulnerable. Legal Aid for family matters were drastically cut in 2013, which was followed by the reduction in criminal legal aid, on top of which making it harder for anyone who has a grievance in an employment matter who has to pay a substantial fee. More recently the government announced the proposal to ban whiplash injury claims along with increasing the small claims limit for personal injury to £5,000 which means anyone who has ever suffered an injury will know that even a simple claim can be complicated when you have a large insurance company making it less than easy for you. It seems this government is targeting vulnerable people without having an idea how ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ their actions. Can it be cost effective to increase court fees when the court’s time is taken up a litigant in person who will need much more time than if he/she was properly represented.

Anyone looking in will agree, the system is failing the most vulnerable.

It is worth remembering that wealthy politicians from privileged backgrounds are able to ‘afford’ legal services and full protection of their legal rights. Many hardworking middle income earners who earn up to £70,000 per annum and lower income working families cannot afford the same protections of the law as those of the privileged. So who is the law working for? The cuts in legal services and increases in court fees lead to the creation of two societies, protecting only the most privileged in our, so called, society. 

  

* subject to parliamentary approval”

Again Government Hike Court Fees (Stealth Tax)

The Ministry of Justice announced today that court fees for divorce is to increase from Monday, 21st March from £410 to a whopping £550*, a massive 30% increase. Although this was first discussed last summer, it was not included in the fee increase towards the end of last year so it has come as a surprise to many divorce lawyers. The government appears to ignore the human casualties that often requires a court resolution out of necessity but instead seems hell bent on hiking fees where people are most vulnerable. Legal Aid for family matters were drastically cut in 2013, which was followed by the reduction in criminal legal aid, on top of which making it harder for anyone who has a grievance in an employment matter who has to pay a substantial fee. More recently the government announced the proposal to ban whiplash injury claims along with increasing the small claims limit for personal injury to £5,000 which means anyone who has ever suffered an injury will know that even a simple claim can be complicated when you have a large insurance company making it less than easy for you. It seems this government is targeting vulnerable people without having an idea how ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ their actions. Can it be cost effective to increase court fees when the court’s time is taken up a litigant in person who will need much more time than if he/she was properly represented.

Anyone looking in will agree, the system is failing the most vulnerable.
It is worth remembering that wealthy politicians from privileged backgrounds are able to ‘afford’ legal services and full protection of their legal rights. Many hardworking middle income earners who earn up to £70,000 per annum and lower income working families cannot afford the same protections of the law as those of the privileged. So who is the law working for? The cuts in legal services and increases in court fees lead to the creation of two societies, protecting only the most privileged in our, so called, society.

* subject to parliamentary approval”

Impact of Fraud in divorce settlements

Impact of Fraud in divorce settlements considered in the UK Supreme Court

The UK’s highest court heard today the cases of two wives pursuing their ex-husband’s for millions of pounds that they say their ex concealed from them.  Alison Sharland received £10m from her ex-husband when they divorced but her husband’s company Manchester software company was worth many more millions of pounds.  Mrs Sharland argues she should have received significantly more. Her court action, in conjunction with another ex-wife, Varsha Gohil, who also believes her ex-husband concealed the true value of his wealth.

Both women allege they have been shortchanged by their  ex-husbands and denied justice if they were deprived from re-opening their settlement agreement.  They argue that all ex-spouses should be entitled to reopen negotiations in a concluded divorce agreement where there have been deception. A fear of “floodgates opening” of many thousands of old settled divorce cases did not constitute legal grounds for refusing Alison Sharland’s request, her barrister told the supreme court.  If successful, it is projected that there are many thousands of such cases arising whereex-partners will attempt to renegotiate divorce settlements.

Alison Sharland had accepted £10.35m in cash and properties from her ex-husband in the settlement but her husband’s company was worth many times more than that which was disclosed in the their divorce case.  In the lower court (Court of Appeal) the judges had agreed that Alison Sharland husband’s non-disclosure had been deliberate but two of the three judges believed they should not overturn the original settlement even though his evidence was “seriously misleading” it would not have led to a significantly different outcome.

In the other case before the Supreme Court, the court of appeal had found that Varsha Gohil’s husband true business activity was of an eye watering scale and as a couple  have three grown-up children who remained financially dependent on their mother.

Clearly, there is a case for a review of the remedies in law for perjury when a spouse is dishonest about assets.

The UK Supreme Court’s judgment is expected later this year whether or not a spouse will be able to get away without disclosure true financial wealth.