How much does it cost to get divorced in the UK?
Getting divorced comes with a range of costs. In the UK, the average cost is cited as being around £15,000. However, this figure can be misleading, as it encompasses a variety of expenses beyond the legal process of divorce itself. It includes costs such as legal fees for divorce and the division of finances, the setup of a new home, child maintenance, and lifestyle adjustments following separation.
Understanding the true cost of a divorce requires looking at its two core components separately - the process to legally end the marriage, and the financial settlement between the parties. Both of these components come with their own unique costs and considerations.
- The process to legally end the marriage: this is an administrative process, which entails making an application for a final order (previously known as a decree absolute). This part of the divorce usually costs significantly less than the average £15,000 figure suggests.
- The financial settlement: this involves settling financial disputes, dividing assets, and establishing any necessary spousal or child support arrangements. It is this part of the process that can significantly increase the overall cost of divorce, and it often requires legal advice or representation.
To apply for a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership in the UK, the fixed court fee is £593. This covers all administrative work done by the court up to the final order, and there's no additional fee for obtaining the final order.
When it comes to financial settlements, if you and your spouse can't find a mutually acceptable settlement and must apply to the court for a judgement, there's an additional court fee of £275. This covers all the administrative work and the judge’s time for each hearing. If, however, you and your spouse can agree on a settlement, you only pay £53 for the court to approve your agreement and make it into a consent order.
You may be eligible for a reduction or exemption from court fees if you have little or no savings, are on certain benefits, or have a low income. This may help to reduce the financial burden of the divorce process. Applications for help with court fees can be made using court form EX160 or online.
It’s worth noting that these court fees are separate from other potential costs in the divorce process, like legal fees, mediation costs, or other additional expenses.
Navigating the legal process of divorce can be challenging. While some aspects can be handled personally, there are certain areas that require legal assistance. The cost of this assistance is typically categorised under legal fees.
Getting legally divorced, that is, obtaining the final order which indicates that you're no longer married to your spouse, is relatively straightforward. The majority of divorce applications are made directly by the spouses, not solicitors, as the process can be done online and is generally simple to follow.
However, if you'd prefer to have a solicitor manage your application for you, this added service can cost over £500, plus the court fee. This fee typically includes the cost of the solicitor's time to prepare and submit the necessary paperwork, as well as any advice they provide to you throughout the application process.
The process of reaching a financial settlement as part of the divorce can be a more complex task. It often necessitates legal advice and representation at court (by either solicitor advocates or barristers), particularly in cases involving substantial assets, complex financial arrangements, or disputes about the division of assets.
The cost of legal fees (i.e. both solicitor and barrister fees) for this aspect of the divorce typically ranges from £10,000 to £20,000 per person, but these costs can increase significantly in more complicated or contentious cases.
It's important to understand that these figures are averages and actual costs may vary. Factors affecting the cost include the solicitor's/ barrister’s experience level, the complexity of your case, the length of the process, and your geographical location.
Litigant in person
You have the option to choose not to have a solicitor represent you throughout the proceedings, known as being a “litigant in person”. This can save on some of the costs of representation. However, it's highly recommended to seek legal advice even if you choose this route. You can consult a solicitor or barrister (provided the latter is able to undertake direct access work) as and when you need advice, typically paying them by the hour. This way, you can ensure you're making informed decisions, even if you're managing the process yourself.
Remember, investing in legal advice is not just a cost; it can be a valuable tool to ensure you understand your rights and options, that all legal protocols are followed, and that the final settlement is not prejudicial and in line with legal standards.
Divorce mediation costs
Many couples who are getting divorced take part in family mediation to reach an agreed financial settlement. This provides an alternative dispute resolution that doesn’t involve battling it out in court.
This is a more collaborative and usually cost-effective method, where a mediator helps the couple find a mutually acceptable settlement.
A mediator's fees will vary based on the complexity of the couple's finances and the number of mediation sessions required. As a rough guide, expect to pay around £150 per hour, per person. Mediation costs are typically about a tenth of the price of hiring a solicitor to represent you in court proceedings.
Reaching a financial settlement
One of the main goals of divorce mediation is to help you reach a fair financial settlement. As a part of the divorce process, it's likely that you’ll divide your shared assets and financial obligations in a manner that both parties find acceptable. This includes considerations about property, debts, savings, pensions, and ongoing financial support.
The agreement reached in mediation isn't legally binding on its own. It becomes so when it's turned into a 'consent order' and approved by a court.
Is legal aid available for divorce?
Legal aid is financial assistance provided by the government to cover legal costs for individuals who cannot afford them. However, it's important to note that legal aid is not available for all aspects of the divorce process.
While legal aid does not cover the costs associated with applying for a divorce, it may be available for mediation services when negotiating a financial settlement. This is contingent upon a means assessment, which considers your income and financial resources to determine your eligibility.
In limited circumstances, such as instances of domestic abuse, legal aid might also cover representation by a solicitor if you're asking the court to determine a financial settlement.
After a financial settlement has been reached, there may be additional costs related to implementing the settlement's terms.
If you own property or run a business, you may need to obtain a professional valuation of these assets, which can come with a cost. This typically involves paying an admin fee.
Financial advisor fees
This might be necessary if you require specialised tax advice from an accountant, or if you need advice from a pension expert.
Remember, these costs aren't specific to mediation; they would apply regardless of how you approach your divorce. However, they may be lower in mediation as the couple can collaborate on choosing the most efficient way to obtain the necessary information with the help of the mediator.
Depending on the settlement's terms, one or both parties may need to move into a new home. This can involve costs such as hiring movers, buying new furniture, and paying for a new lease or mortgage.
Remember, every divorce situation is unique, and the costs involved can vary greatly based on personal circumstances. It's essential to plan for these costs as part of your overall divorce strategy.
How long does divorce take?
Understanding the time frame of a divorce process can help in planning your budget and lifestyle adjustments during this challenging period. It's important to distinguish between two aspects of a divorce - the legal end to the marriage and the process of reaching a financial settlement:
Legal end to the marriage
The time it takes from filing a divorce application to obtaining the final order—previously known as the decree absolute—usually takes about seven months. This process formally ends the marriage and is primarily an administrative procedure.
The process of sorting out a financial settlement might take longer, depending on the method you choose to pursue.
If you ask the court to decide on a financial settlement, the process is likely to take at least a year. This duration can vary based on the complexity of the case and court schedules.
Opting for mediation usually takes less time, typically around three to four months. The duration can depend on the complexity of the financial situation and how quickly both parties can agree on a settlement.
Every situation is unique and these are just average durations. The actual time can be shorter or longer based on your circumstances.
Getting divorced can be both emotionally and financially challenging. Understanding the cost implications and timelines involved in this process can better prepare individuals facing this daunting task. It's important to differentiate between the cost of legally ending a marriage and the cost of sorting out the financial settlement, as these two aspects of divorce entail different procedures, expenses, and time frames.
Get in Touch
If you need assistance with the divorce process or would like to explore mediation, please feel free to get in touch with us. Our team of experienced mediators are here to guide you through this difficult time and help you reach a fair financial settlement with minimum stress.