Paragraph 8 of the most recent Supreme and High Court Fees Order (S.I. No. 341 of 1989) provides that no fees shall be payable in respect of proceedings under the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964; Maintenance Orders Act, 1974; Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act, 1976; Family Home Protection Act, 1976; Family Law (Protection of Spouses and Children) Act, 1981; Status of Children Act, 1987; Adoption Acts, 1952 to 1988; or proceedings brought by a health board under the Children Acts, 1908 to 1989.
Legislation enacted after the 1989 fees order not covered by that order and the various statutes providing for orders for judicial separation or divorce do not contain any provision that fees are not to be made payable. Therefore the proceedings at all times attracted and continue to attract stamp duty. The court has no discretion to waive fees in any case not expressly covered by statute or statutory instrument.
Prior to the recent Government decision, which prohibited any increase in fees charged by State bodies, a revision of the Supreme and High Court Fees Order was under way. As part of that review consideration was being given to an amendment of the order to exempt all family law proceedings from the payment of court fees. This would bring the fees in relation to family law cases in the Supreme and High Courts into line with those payable in the Circuit Court. In the context of that review, consideration will be given to the question of whether an exemption provision can be introduced for the Supreme and High Courts.