Divorce is a life-changing decision that often comes with substantial emotional and psychological consequences. However, it is not just the emotional aspect that can take a toll on you; the financial impact of divorce can also be significant and is often overlooked. The cost of a divorce can often catch people off guard, leaving them struggling to rebuild their lives and their finances.
From legal fees and asset division to child support and maintenance payments, divorce can result in a substantial shift in your financial situation. It is therefore crucial to understand the financial implications of divorce and plan ahead to mitigate the impact on your financial well-being.
In this article, we will explore the costs of divorce and provide insights into understanding the financial impact. Whether you are considering divorce or are in the midst of the process, this article should provide you with the guidance to make informed decisions and navigate the financial complexities associated with the divorce process.
The cost of a divorce can vary greatly and there are a number of factors that can have an impact on the overall, final cost. These include:
– Your role in the divorce;
– Whether you choose to seek legal counsel during the divorce process;
– Whether or not the divorce is contested;
– How you choose to resolve any disagreements with your partner.
It is important to be aware of all these issues from the outset of the process, so that you can plan in advance for the costs you may incur.
Who pays the cost of a divorce?
The petitioner (the person who is applying for the divorce) is responsible for paying the court fees and the fees they may incur with their solicitor during the process, but they may include in the application for divorce a claim for an order that the other party (the respondent) should pay the petitioner’s cost.
Such costs orders are at the discretion of the court and whether the court will make such an order depends upon whether the respondent objects and, if he or she does, the circumstances of the particular case.
In some cases where the divorce is amicable, a couple may decide to split the court fee evenly.
There are also a number of situations in which court fees can be reduced or even waived for couples who may struggle to pay these costs.
If you are on a low income (the exact threshold varies according to whether you have dependent children), do not have savings, or are a recipient of benefits (Jobseekers Allowance, Universal Credit, or Income Support) you can apply to the court for help with your court fees. This is an often overlooked method of keeping the costs of a divorce down.
What are the Court fees for divorce?
The fixed court fee to process a divorce in the UK is currently £550. Paying this fee allows you to file your divorce petition, apply for the ‘decree nisi’ which states that the court does not object to the divorce, and receive the ‘decree absolute’ that confirms the end of your marriage.
Cost of an uncontested divorce
Uncontested divorces tend to be faster and simpler to resolve, so a solicitor will usually charge a fixed fee, agreed upfront, when handling a case in which both parties agree on the split.
As stated above, fixed fees can vary depending on certain factors. Some firms offer different rates depending on the experience and seniority of the solicitor assigned to your case.
Agreeing a fixed fee at the outset is recommended if you are looking to keep the cost of a divorce down.
If an agreement is reached in relation to financial matters, these should be embodied in a consent order to confirm the terms agreed.
A consent order, which makes legally binding any agreement between you and your partner on how to divide assets and arrange maintenance payments, can cost between £500 and £2,000 plus VAT depending on length and complexity.
A relatively simple consent order implementing the terms agreed by the parties between themselves or at mediation usually costs between £500 and £1,000 plus VAT. However, if mediation breaks down and/or the negotiations undertaken on your behalf become protracted, then these costs are likely to be in the region of £1,000 to £2,000 plus VAT.
We understand that taking the first step and contacting a solicitor to discuss a divorce or separation can be extremely daunting. However, it is important that you seek specialist legal advice, tailored to your circumstances, at the earliest possible opportunity.
Obtaining advice at an early stage will provide you with a clear understanding of what to expect and will help you to plan for the divorce or separation process.
You do not necessarily need to act on the advice straight away and we will advise you if you need to take any urgent steps.
When instructing Elite Law Solicitors in relation to your divorce or separation you can expect the following:
The very best legal advice
A personal service tailored to your needs and requirements
A qualified and experienced solicitor dealing personally with your case
If it is unclear how long it is going to take to reach a resolution to your case, your solicitor may instead choose to charge an hourly rate. This is more common with defended divorces, which tend to take much longer to resolve and require more of the solicitor’s time.
As with fixed fees, a solicitor’s hourly rates can vary depending on the location of the firm and the seniority of the solicitor working on your case.
Cost of a contested divorce
Contested or defended divorces are more difficult to resolve, and therefore the overall costs can potentially be much higher. There are many ways to resolve a defended divorce, and different methodologies will incur different costs.
If a brief period of mediation is enough for all parties to reach an agreement, the cost of the divorce can still be kept relatively low. If the couple are unable to reach a resolution and the case goes to court, then the costs incurred will be much higher.
Cost of a divorce if the matter goes to Court
If mediation and other attempts at resolution are not successful, you may need to make a court application to resolve financial matters. The length, complexity, and the approach of each party’s legal counsel can all affect the overall cost of a divorce.
The majority of cases that go to court are resolved early on in the proceedings. If this is the case, then you will usually be able to keep the costs between the £5,000 and £10,000 mark.
If the case does not settle, there will be a final contested hearing at which the court will deliver their ruling. At each stage of the process you can expect to incur further fees which can, again, vary depending on the complexity of your case.
The financial aspects of your case will be resolved in a series of stages, beginning with the issuing of a Form A which states your intent to proceed with a financial order. From there, the process will involve a First Appointment, a Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (FDR), and if a settlement has still not been reached, a Final Hearing.
At each of these stages the costs of the divorce will increase exponentially. The costs include not just your solicitors fees, but payments made to third parties such as barristers, or expert witnesses (e.g to value property or pensions).
The average costs until the First Appointment are approximately £5,000 to £10,000. From First Appointment to FDR, costs are likely to double again with an additional £10,000 to £15,000. If the case reaches Final Hearing, costs are likely to be an additional £10,000 – £20,000.
These estimates don’t take into account additional work that may need to be carried out in cases of particular complexity or high value.
Law Society directives state that your solicitor must keep you informed of the cost of a divorce as you proceed through the process. At the outset, your solicitor will provide an estimate of costs to you in written form, and they will have to notify you before any court hearings if they expect to exceed the costs set out in their initial estimate, and the reasons why.
Can I save on costs and do a divorce myself?
Having read the above, you may be wondering whether you are able to skip the solicitor’s fees altogether and process your divorce without the input of any third parties.
It is in fact quite possible to save on the cost of a divorce by doing what is commonly termed a “DIY divorce”, where you and your partner go through the divorce process with little-to-no help from a solicitor.
If your divorce is amicable and your finances are very simple, a DIY divorce can be an option to keep the cost of a divorce as low as possible.
If you and your partner agree to the divorce, don’t have any property or children, and are able to discuss together how you will divide the assets you do share, then you might find that the DIY divorce is an appropriate option for you to help you save on the legal costs associated with the divorce process.
Even if your divorce is amicable, however, we would usually advise having at least one safety check with a solicitor specialising in divorce and family law before opting for a DIY divorce. You may not be aware of all your options at the time of divorce, or of the repercussions the choices you make during the divorce may have in the future.
Similarly, if you share assets such as property or pensions, have dependent children, or have been married for a long time, we would strongly advise each party to seek legal counsel and to resolve the divorce with legally binding paperwork setting out in writing the agreements made during the divorce process.
Opting not to seek legal assistance may help you save on the costs of your divorce but it does come with its own risks.
Why should I instruct a divorce solicitor?
Concerns about the cost of a divorce are often at the forefront of people’s minds when considering whether or not to seek legal advice. However, there are many hidden complexities involved in divorces, and for anything other than the most straightforward and amicable splits it is strongly advisable to at the very least consult a divorce solicitor at the beginning of the process.
For cases involving large assets, children, or other matters needing to be resolved, it is essential to have an experienced legal professional on your side.
A divorce solicitor can help advise you on many common aspects of the divorce process, including: how to divide your finances fairly; what happens to property and other shared assets; arrangements for children including primary residence and education; maintenance payments and other forms of ongoing financial support; and division of pensions.
Divorce costs can quickly spiral out of control if you are not careful, but there are also a number of ways you can try to keep these costs down, either by choosing carefully how you approach your divorce, what methods you use for dispute resolution, and how you arrange fees with your solicitor.
Reducing your court fees
As stated in the section on court fees above, if you are a low income earner, receive state benefits, or can demonstrate a lack of savings, you may be eligible for support to cover some or all of the court fees for your divorce.
To be eligible for income-based support with the cost of a divorce, you must earn less than £1,085 per month pre-tax if you are single, less than £1,245 if you have a partner, and less than an additional £245 for each dependent child you have.
You can also get help with the cost of a divorce if you are on income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Universal Credit or Pension Credit.
Finally, if you are under 61 and can demonstrate that you have less than £3,000 in savings or are over 61 and less than £16,000 in savings, you may also be eligible for help with your court fees.
Eligibility for Legal Aid
You can avoid the cost of a divorce altogether if you are eligible for legal aid. You may be entitled to legal aid to pay your solicitor’s fees in certain specific circumstances, such as if there is evidence of domestic violence or child abduction involved in your case.
You can check whether you are eligible for legal aid on the government website. To get access to legal aid you may need to complete a financial assessment.
Please note, however, that even if you are eligible, at Elite Law Solicitors we do not undertake legally aided work.
Mediation has many benefits and can be a very useful tool to help keep the cost of a divorce down. During mediation, you and your partner will meet with an independent, trained mediator who can help you constructively discuss and resolve disagreements such as financial issues and childcare arrangements.
Attendance at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is mandatory before you can progress your divorce to the court, but it should not be seen just as a hoop to jump through. The mediator will explain in the course of the MIAM how mediation works and will consider whether it is suitable in your particular case.
If both parties involved in the divorce can enter into mediation with a genuine desire to communicate and a commitment to the process, mediation can prove a much less financially and emotionally taxing method of resolving divorce disputes and a helpful option for keeping the cost of a divorce down.
During mediation, the mediator will remain independent and impartial. Their role in the process is not to advise on what decisions either party should make, but simply to facilitate conversation between the two parties. At the end of the process they will help you draft a Memorandum of Understanding, which can then be passed onto a solicitor to be turned into a legally binding Consent Order.
Collaborative law offers an alternative approach to taking disputes to Court and can assist with minimising the cost of a divorce. This approach involves each party appointing a trained collaborative solicitor to represent them.
The couple and their respective solicitors will then attend a series of four-way meetings, sometimes with a family consultant present as well, to discuss and attempt to settle any outstanding issues, from finances and logistics to arrangements for children. Provided a couple is willing to work together constructively, the benefits of collaborative law are numerous.
While the exact number of meetings a dispute will take to resolve varies, on average the process can be completed within a couple of months. With the quicker resolution comes a lower financial cost, too. Perhaps just as importantly, the collaborative approach hands more control to those involved.
Instead of a Judge making a final decision, in collaborative law the ultimate resolution to any dispute is arrived at through a process of constructive conversation, meaning that the end result is likely to be much more acceptable to all parties.
It is important to note that, while similar, collaborative law is not the same as mediation. In mediation, a disputing couple will attend meetings with a single, independent mediator. The couples’ individual solicitors do not attend the mediation but can be referred to if a particular issue arises in the mediation process upon which either party needs legal advice. Like mediation however, collaborative law can prove a much less financially and emotionally taxing method of resolving divorce disputes and a helpful option for keeping the cost of a divorce down.
How Elite Law Solicitors can help
The end of a relationship can be an emotionally charged and distressing time for all involved and concerns surrounding the cost of a divorce can often make the situation even more difficult.
Our experienced family law solicitors can clearly advise you on the cost of a divorce and possess the legal expertise and practical know-how to help you through the process of a divorce or separation.
We are accredited by the Law Society and regularly provide specialist legal advice on all aspects of family law and divorce to clients all over the country. In addition to office meetings, we offer remote meetings via telephone and video conferencing software and can assist you wherever you are based.
The content of this article is for general information only. The information in this article is not legal or professional advice. If you require legal or professional advice you should obtain independent expert advice from qualified divorce solicitors such as those within our firm.
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