Understanding the cost of divorce
First things first. What is a divorce?
This is where many people get confused. A divorce in the UK is merely the ending of the legal contract between a husband and wife. A divorce case and the costs involved DO NOT automatically include the costs of sorting out matters in relation to children, for example getting agreement on contact and residence, or the thorny issue of dividing your finances.
A UK divorce case involves the completion of certain items of paperwork which have to be filed with the courts. The Courts levy a fee for handling this paperwork, currently £550.
Very often if a husband and wife are in agreement a divorce can be completed amicably and quite quickly (although this will depend on the speed of the Courts at various stages). At Woolley & Co a fixed fee of £725 plus Vat and court fees is charged for a divorce of this kind.
Most people have to pay these costs themselves, although some couples choose to split the costs between them.
Additions to the divorce – ancillary matters
Very few cases simply involve divorce proceedings and nothing more. In most marriages there is a marital home, investment assets (such as savings, endowments, shares and so on), issues concerning each parties income, pension funds held by one or both parties and other issues which need to be agreed on – such as the division of household furniture, who will keep the family car, pets and so on. In a marriage with children there is also likely to be agreement needed on which parent the children will live with, child maintenance and contact with the other parent.
If both parties can agree on how to divide the finances and / or arrangements for the children a case can be very simple and may not require the parties to attend Court. In these circumstances lawyers are able to embody the agreement into a legally binding document known as a Conset Order which you both sign. This is then filed at the court for the approval of the Judge once the Decree Nisi is issued. Most people will need help from an experienced divorce lawyer to assist them through the process of separating the matrimonial finances.
In a few cases if an agreement cannot be reached voluntarily, even with the help of their lawyer one or both parties may seek the assistance of the court in deciding how things should be divided. This is when costs can begin to escalate.
Your lawyer should always give you an estimate of how much each element of a case is going to cost. At Woolley & Co we can sometimes offer a fixed fee at each stage so that you know exactly how much your lawyer’s fees will be.
It is worthwhile understanding at the outset however that in addition to the lawyers’ fees you will need to budget anything between £3,000 to £4,000 for the following:
- Court fees
- Valuers fees in respect of the matrimonial home, other properties, policies and assets
- Fees paid to pension fund managers for transfer value figures and other calculations
- Fees paid to banks and credit card companies for copy statements, if not available
- Fees paid to the HM Revenue for copy tax documents, if not available
- Fees paid to independent financial advisers for advice on how to manage your financial affairs
- Fees paid to actuaries to calculate pension sharing figures
Fees paid to a barrister to represent you at any final hearing
At Woolley & Co we can help you to budget in several ways:-
- Woolley & Co offer a fixed-fee option for many types of case, so you know in advance exactly what it will cost. For an uncontested divorce, for instance, such an option is almost always cheaper than paying an hourly rate.
- Where we agree to invoice you for work completed on an hourly rate basis Woolley & Co always provide a cost estimate at the start of the case
- All Woolley & Co clients are invoiced on a monthly basis (to assist you with budgeting)
- Woolley & Co will always notify you in advance if we feel the cost estimate needs to be adjusted.
- In suitable cases we can arrange a ‘legal funding loan’ with a reputable bank, where you pay only the monthly interest until the case is settled, and then pay off the loan from settlement monies (for example the sale of a property, when the case is concluded). This arrangement is only suitable, of course, in cases where a financial settlement is being pursued by the client.
At Woolley & Co we aim to use plain English at every stage in our dealings with clients. We think it is essential for both clients and ourselves, that you understand the costs involved in your case. If at any stage you are unclear you should raise the issue with the lawyer handling your case.