Budget 2015: Family Court fees set to dramatically rise

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court-judgmentUnhappy couples who are planning to get a divorce or families experiencing a breakdown will be hit by a “divorce tax” as federal court fees will dramatically rise under changes in the government’s new budget.

The changes, which Labor derided as “mean-spirited”, will result in an $87 million increase in revenue from the Family Court, Federal Circuit Court and Federal Court of Australia.

Fairfax Media understands that the fee to apply for divorce will “significantly rise” under the new fee schedule. It is currently $845.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General George Brandis confirmed the fee increases, but said the full details would not be available until July 1.

“Court fee changes have been announced to assist with streamlining and improving the sustainability of the federal courts,” she said.

Labor’s family law spokesman Graham Perrett described the increase as a “mean-spirited tax on family breakdowns”.

“Senator Brandis should be ashamed that he is taking advantage of a vulnerable sector of society to line the government coffers,” Mr Perrett said.

“Only last month a Family Court judge publicly apologised for the year-long delay in delivering judgment due to an over-worked and under-resourced Family Court.”

Budget papers say changes to the fee structure of the the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court will bring in revenue of $66.6 million, while the Federal Court of Australia will raise $17.8 million.

Of the $87.7 million revenue from the increased fees, $22.5 million will go to streamlining the three courts, while $30 million will be channelled towards refurbishing the Court buildings. This means $35.2 million will return to the Abbott government.

The Family Court primarily hears cases of family breakdowns, child custody, property settlements and spousal maintenance. According to its website, it allows Australians to resolve their most complex legal family disputes. The Federal Circuit Court was established to relieve the workload for the Federal Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia.

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, 40 per cent of marriages end in divorce in Australia.

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