Divorce Fees To Be Hiked in Australia; Move Slammed By Critics

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IN PHOTO: A Chilean couple hold hands as they walk through downtown Santiago, August 18, 2003. Chile, one of the few nations in the world where "until death do you part" is still the law, is finally moving toward legalizing divorce. Ironically, the proposed rules may make it harder than ever to end marriages. Chile's Senate voted recently to consider a divorce bill already approved by the lower house of Congress. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Divorce is not only messy for families, but it can also bankrupt them. Recent budget papers reveal that the government is planning massive hikes in Family Law fees, which would raise at least $90 million in revenues.

According to The Australian, the family court fees would increase by 50 percent. The current fee for a divorce filing is about $845 and would possibly rise to $1,200. The increased fees have been slammed by critics who have accused the government of making money out of vulnerable people. The head of Law Council of Australia's family law section, Rick O'Brien, told The Ausralian, “Court fees even at their existing levels are a significant burden for families who are struggling through a crisis.” He also expressed the fear that high fees may also restrict the accessibility of courts for ordinary citizens.

According to the Courier Mail, a Federal Parliamentary inquiry revealed that person had to put aside $5 a week to afford to lodge a divorce application form at the current rates. A steep increase affects women trapped in relationships that involve domestic violence and other weaker sections.

The opposition legal affairs spokesman told The Australian that the government had “twisted priorities.” According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Labour Family Law spokesman, Graham Perett has slammed the tax as a “mean spirited tax on family breakdowns." It has to be noted that Attorney General George Brandis would soon reverse the fee hikes for Federal Court Tax Cases. The Australian Taxation Office has threatened to take its litigation to state courts as the hike made the trial an expensive option in the Federal courts. This would have deprived the court of millions of dollars in fees.

The family court hears cases regarding family breakdowns, custody battles and property disputes. With increasing divorce rates, the steep hike in fees may lead to a windfall for the government. But for the financially weaker sections spending their money on litigation rather than on living expenses, it would be a tough choice to make.

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