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How much does a divorce cost?

If you are considering getting a divorce, one of the first considerations may be how much will it all cost me? And the answer is it depends! We have detailed below some common scenarios.

How much does it cost to get a divorce?

If you instruct a solicitor to act on your behalf and you are the petitioner then you will probably pay approximately, £650 to£1,500 plus VAT plus the court fee of £593 (at the time of writing).

The above assumes that it is a fairly straight forward divorce petition that is not defended, that there are no jurisdictional issues or issues as to the validity of the marriage. If any of these factors apply then then divorce proceedings can become expensive, especially if it ends up going to court. If you have contested proceedings then your costs could easily exceed £5,000 plus VAT.

If you have any questions about your divorce or need help to decide the best way forward with your divorce, contact a divorce solicitor.

What makes a divorce expensive?

Currently the law is outdated (1973) and rule heavy.  If there is conflict, dispute or lack of cooperation for example on an unreasonable behaviour petition then this can increase costs.  Often though it is not the actual divorce that is expensive – costs tend to be incurred when looking at the division of a couple’s finances or childcare arrangements.

Why does it cost money to get a divorce?

It costs money to get a divorce because there is a court fee to pay (£593*) and if you utilise the services of a solicitor then you will need to pay for their time although most solicitors will offer a fixed fee for the divorce itself.

*correct at the time of writing 

Factors affecting the cost of divorce

There are multiple factors that will impact the final cost of a divorce. These include:

  • Whether or not you used a solicitor
  • The complexity of your individual situation – for example: any validity or jurisdictional issues.
  • Whether or not the divorce is contested or uncontested

How much can I expect to pay for an uncontested divorce?

A common question people ask is ‘how much is a divorce if we both agree?’.  If you and your ex-partner are both in agreement regarding the terms and grounds for divorce, then this becomes an uncontested divorce, which is usually cheaper than if you and your ex-partner disagree. Generally your solicitor will offer a fixed fee to file the paperwork – or you can do it yourself online.

How much is an uncontested divorce?

If you use a solicitor then you should expect to pay anything from £6500 to £1,500 plus VAT and the court fee if your divorce is uncontested. An uncontested divorce simplifies matters as the divorce does not need a court hearing, therefore the legal fees will be reduced. If you complete the paperwork yourself then you will only pay the Court fee.  Do be careful through with unreasonable behaviour petitions or those based on 5 years separation if there is a hardship element.

Who pays divorce costs?

Initially the costs are paid by the petitioner (the person who starts the process) as they are the one who has to draft the paperwork and pay the fee.  Solicitors fees for a Respondent will be much lower, reflecting the limited work required by a respondent party to divorce proceedings. Respondents should expect to pay around £200 – £400 plus VAT. However be aware that more often than not either the parties agree to split the costs or the Court can order a respondent to pay some or all of the petitioner’s costs.

How much does a divorce cost if it goes to court?

Firstly contested divorce proceedings are very rare although they do happen.  Generally if there is disagreement as to the ground relied upon with some discussion this can be agreed to everyone’s satisfaction as this is by far and away the most cost effective way of moving matters on.   If that is not possible for whatever reason and the matter goes to trial and you have a solicitor then you should expect to pay considerably more as effectively you will be having a trial on the grounds of the divorce or the validity of the marriage for example.  Costs can easily run into thousands of pounds.  Hence why it is better to agree.

A contested divorce is when one party doesn’t agree to the divorce going ahead for whatever reason.

What fees are there to get a divorce?

  • The Court fee for divorce. You must pay a £593* fee to apply for a divorce; this can be done online. It cannot be refunded, and you will need to apply for a divorce before any further steps are taken.
  • Solicitor fees. If at any point you use divorce solicitor services, you will need to pay solicitor fees. Depending on your individual circumstances, solicitor fees will vary. The more you need legal advice to proceed with a divorce, the more you will need to pay in solicitor fees.
  • Court fees. You may also need to pay additional fees for court proceedings should your divorce go to court or if you need to pay for service of documents by a bailiff. and contest on certain aspects.
  • Any additional consultation fees 

 *correct at the time of writing

How can I pay for my divorce?

Typically, you pay for divorce yourself, although you can agree to split the costs with your ex-partner.

I want a divorce but can’t afford it. What do I do?

If you want a divorce but do not have enough money to pay for it, there are a few options you can consider. These include:

A DIY divorce

A DIY divorce is one way you can reduce the costs of a divorce. You will still have to pay the Court fee however unless you are exempt.

What is a DIY divorce?

A DIY divorce is when you and your ex-partner initiate divorce proceedings or the dissolution process with little or no help from a solicitor. If a couple is able to agree, then they can submit their legal paperwork on their own without a divorce solicitor to represent them.

Be cautious however about agreeing financial issues following a breakdown of a marriage as these are not so straightforward.

Work with a mediator to reduce divorce costs

What is mediation in divorce?

Mediation is the process whereby a trained mediator speaks to both parties applying for a divorce – separately at first and then together – with the aim of helping to settle any disputes regarding the divorce. Mediation is voluntary and confidential. A mediator will aim to get you and your ex-partner in a positive discussion about any points of dispute. It is a process that focuses very much on the future, rather than the past.

Mediation can be a cheaper option. Legal aid may be available for family mediation, dependant on individual circumstances. Mediators ordinarily charge an hourly rate for their services.

What does mediation achieve?

Mediation can help a couple come to an agreement on any issue arising out of their relationship breakdown whether this be the divorce itself, financial matters or children issues.

Borrowing funds for legal expenses from friends or family

Borrowing money from friends or family is less risky than borrowing from loan companies, as this could result in a lot of unpaid debt that can spiral out of control depending on your circumstances and reasons for divorce.

Using financial settlement money

In some cases, you may be able to pay your divorce legal fees once the divorce has been finalised, using the money from the financial settlement. Some divorce solicitors may offer this, but you will need to consult with them directly to check this.

Your ex-partner covering the costs

Although it is common for the divorce costs to be split equally between the parties, it is possible for the court to order that your ex-partner covers the costs of the divorce. This may happen if  your ex-partner has an income that is considerably higher than your own.

What is the least expensive way to get a divorce?

The least expensive way to get a divorce is through an uncontested divorce – in other words by agreeing the basis of the divorce with the other party.

Can I get a cheap divorce?

Any divorce proceedings require you to pay the court fee of £593*  – you may be entitled to some assistance.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse or at risk of homelessness you may be able to apply for legal aid.

*correct at the time of writing

Can I get help to pay for my divorce?

You can get help to pay for your divorce depending on your individual circumstances.

Visit the Citizen’s Advice website for more information on how you can get help to pay for your divorce. 

How much does a divorce lawyer cost?

The cost of a divorce lawyer will be dependent on how frequently you use their services. Solicitor costs will vary based on factors such as the specialist knowledge, their individual expertise, the geographical location and the level of experience of the solicitor conducting the work.

Do divorce lawyers set a fixed fee?

Some solicitors will offer a fixed fee for dealing with the divorce itself. It is rare for a solicitor to offer a fixed fee for the handling the divorce and any financial matters as a whole. If a solicitor does offer a fixed fee, then this is likely to highlighted on their website.

How much is divorce if you are on benefits?

You will still need to pay for your divorce if you are on benefits, as Legal Aid for the majority of family law cases was withdrawn by the UK government in 2013. You will need to pay the court fee upfront in order to apply for a divorce, which is £593*. Check to see if you are eligible for any reduction.

You may be eligible for legal aid for the following reasons:

  •  Mediation – note it is means tested;
  • You have experienced domestic abuse in the last 5 years;
  • You are at risk of homelessness – for example, if your ex-partner is trying to throw you out of your home.

*correct at the time of writing

Who pays the legal fees in a divorce UK?

In most cases, the petitioner and respondent (the two individuals applying for divorce) will need to cover the legal fees.

If you need legal advice regarding your divorce, speak to a member of the divorce specialist team at Hawkins Family Law today.

Philip is a Resolution member and formed part of the campaign to support no fault divorce proceedings. Philip is also contributor to the legal and national media on family law issues.

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