In the ongoing difficult economic climate, and amid more gloomy news about the economy shrinking, I thought it was timely to return to the topic of keeping divorce costs down. This is an area we have spoken about a number of times before but is still perhaps the question that crops up most frequently with clients or, more specifically, potential clients: how much is it going to cost and how do I keep the cost down?
First things first. It is important to understand exactly what the costs (and potential costs) are. I don’t have the space here to go through this in detail, but take a look at our factsheet Understanding the Costs of Divorce.
Done that? Here then are our top five tips on controlling the cost of divorce:
Agree a fixed fee – wherever possible and make sure you are clear what is included and what additional costs might be involved, such as court fees and disbursements (which generally means things like photocopying large documents, your lawyer’s travel costs, car parking and petrol, barristers’ fees etc.)
Understand who is working on your case – the fee charged will depend on the level of experience and expertise of the person assigned to your case. Lower hourly rates are often charged by junior or unqualified lawyers, but this could be false economy as they may take longer, or lack the knowledge to give you the best possible advice.
Give clear instructions – and make sure your lawyer knows what you want to achieve. Avoid changing your mind or moving the goal posts when it gets to the point of reaching an agreement, or at least recognise that that will mean more work and more cost.
Establish a policy for correspondence – if you do not want your solicitor to acknowledge correspondence or respond without authorisation from you, specify this in writing.
Do not allow emotional issues to cloud the facts – avoid using your solicitor as a source of emotional support. If you need someone to talk to, look to skilled and qualified divorce counsellors who are trained to help people through the emotional trauma of relationship breakdown and who are likely to be cheaper to confide in than a solicitor.
But above everything else, avoid going to court. We manage to settle a very large proportion of our cases without resorting to a court hearing. If a couple simply cannot agree on terms and have to go before a judge, this is where costs can suddenly spiral and timescales lengthen. And of course, the longer it takes, the more it costs.
For more money-saving tips, you can view our video How to save money on your divorce.