When people have determined that they want to end their marriage, no amount of government arm-twisting will make their relationship better. Yet Attorney-General George Brandis is determined to make it harder for married couples to separate.
After a failed attempt to pass a 42% increase in divorce fees through the Australian parliament, Brandis snuck these changes through by regulation while parliament was out of session, in a cynical move that was upheld by the Federal Court. The fee increase has since been struck down by the Senate, but Brandis reportedly still wants to raise the fees.
Brandis has argued that the courts are losing money, but the courts don’t exist to make money: they exist to deliberate on the laws set by the government. If the government has made laws that are more and more expensive to deliberate on, is that the fault of the citizens? It should be the responsibility of the government to keep government lean such that all citizens can afford the justice that they deserve. The divorce fee is not the cost of the court case that determines the splitting of the junk when it all ends. The divorce fee is an administrative fee that finalises documents that declare a marital relationship as over.
Some history on the increases:
The Family Law (Fees) Amendment (2015 Measures No. 1) Regulation 2015 raised the fee for divorce from $845 to $1,200. The fee for consent orders (which formalise any agreements made in the course of a separation) also increased, from $150 to $240, and filing amended applications to the Family Court will now cost $125 (previously no cost).
The 2015 increase was a further hike on 2010 fee increases — prior to 2010, the divorce fee of $450 was similar to the cost of a registry marriage. The increase of divorce fees to double, and then triple, the minimal cost of marriage implies a disincentive to end a marriage. The Science Party agrees with lawyers who are concerned that the new fees create too large an imposition on the separating parties.
The Science Party will repeal any increases in divorce fees.