Domestic Violence Fees to be Scrapped

The fees for non-molestation and occupation orders (and forced marriage protection orders) in domestic violence cases, presently at £75, are to be scrapped from 22nd April 2014; the day when the single family court is created.  This is part of the fee changes in civil and family courts in England and Wales that aim to ensure the income generated by fees more closely matches the cost of the service provided.

Courts Minister Shailesh Vara said[1]:

“I want to emphasise that we will protect vulnerable groups by keeping fees the same for sensitive family issues including adoption applications and child contact. Moreover, we are scrapping the fee for domestic violence injunctions to make sure there are no unnecessary barriers between people and the help they need.

“And people who cannot afford court fees do not have to pay – they can apply for waivers using the means-tested remissions system.”

The Family Law Act (Part IV) 1996 provides domestic violence remedies (non-molestation, s.42 and occupation orders s.33-40) in both County and Family Proceedings Courts.  The lion share of cases are heard in the County Court.  The breaching of a non-molestation order is a criminal offence and has been since July 2007.

Applications and orders made for domestic violence have been falling since 2003.  Similarly, the making of occupation and non-molestation orders have also fallen but the making of occupation orders have fallen the most[2].  In 2002 occupation orders constituted nearly a third of the orders made but in 2012 they constituted 12%[3].  In 2012 more than 20,000 applications for non-molestation and occupation orders were made[4].  There has been a slight increase of 5% in the making and granting of these applications comparing the first quarter of 2013 same period in 2012[5].

Fees for sensitive family issues including child contact, residence, divorce financial disputes, and adoption applications will remain at their present levels.  The fees for local authorities applying for a child to be placed in care are also to decrease.  There will be an increase in fees for money claims, a maximum of £1,920, and a standard civil case fee of £280 replacing the present fee mixture structure.  If applications are made online or through the bulk centre then a standard discount of 10% will be made to reflect the lower cost of these methods[6].

Rebecca J Blackwood

[1]  www.gov.uk/government/news/domestic-violence-victims-helped-as-injunction-fees-are-scrapped

[2]  Data extracted from the MOJ’s Court Statistics Quarterly: January to March 2013

[3]  Data extracted from the MOJ’s Court Statistics Quarterly: January to March 2013

[4]  www.gov.uk/government/news/domestic-violence-victims-helped-as-injunction-fees-are-scrapped

[5]  Data extracted from the MOJ’s Court Statistics Quarterly: January to March 2013

[6]  Data from the Impact Assessment, 31.03.14

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