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Cost of divorce in the UK

Understanding the costs of divorce

From a legal perspective, divorce is simply the ending of a contract in law. It involves the completion of certain items of paperwork which must be filed with the courts. The courts levy a fee for handling this paperwork, currently £550. There will also be the cost of any advice you obtain from a lawyer and their help in completing the divorce paperwork.

Lawyer assisted divorce

There are several options for a lawyer to help you with the divorce process.

You may choose to have a Woolley & Co lawyer complete all of the relevant paperwork and apply for the decree nisi and absolute on your behalf. In this instance we offer a Fixed Price service as detailed below:

If you are divorcing someone: If you initiate the divorce you will be known as the petitioner. As you are initiating the divorce you will be asked to pay the Court fees as well as your lawyers’ fees. At Woolley & Co, solicitors we do this work for a fixed price which includes the Court fees and VAT.

If someone is divorcing you: If you are the respondent in a divorce (ie your partner has initiated divorce proceedings) and where the divorce is uncontested by you Woolley & Co offer a fixed price to handle the divorce on your behalf.  This price includes our fees and VAT on our fees. You do not have to pay Court fees, this is payable by your spouse who has initiated the divorce.

How much does a divorce cost?

Michelle Webley,
Practice Manager

Divorce without a lawyer

You may feel able to complete the divorce paperwork by yourself and can now do so online on the gov.uk website. Sometimes individuals start this process and realise they need expert help with the paperwork, or advice on the consequences of their divorce (especially when it comes to finances). In this instance Woolley & Co can assist on a pay as you go basis, providing input as and when you need it.

Splitting the costs

Most people pay these costs as individuals, although some couples going through a divorce choose to split the costs (the court fee and any solicitor fees) between them.

Cost of divorce summary

  • Online divorce – no lawyer cost, £550 court fee, but remember you will still need advice on your financial settlement
  • Online divorce with lawyer assistance – from as little as £215 +VAT to have a lawyer on hand to answer your questions and provide advice. For the petitioner there’s also the £550 court fee
  • Fixed price divorce – full lawyer assistance to obtain your divorce, £725 +VAT and Court fee for the petitioner and £500 + VAT for the respondent (some couples choose to split these costs between them)

Beyond the divorce – negotiation and agreements

Very few cases, however, involve only the divorce paperwork. In most marriages there is a marital home, money in joint accounts, savings, pensions held by one or both parties, and other financial issues which need to be agreed on in your divorce settlement. These can include division of household furniture, who will keep the family car, pets and so on.

In a marriage in which children are involved, there is also likely to be agreement needed as to which parent the children shall live with and contact arrangements with the other parent.

If both parties can agree on how to split finances your lawyer will ensure your agreement is in a legally-binding document (a consent order) that both parties sign for the court’s approval. Most people will need help from an experienced divorce solicitor to assist them in knowing what to negotiate for and how to negotiate to obtain the best possible outcome.

If both parents agree arrangements for the care of their children, there should be no need to involve solicitors or the family courts. However, if there is a disagreement between parents it is helpful to obtain specialist family law advice at an early stage.

Can’t agree about finances?

In some cases, a couple cannot agree even with the help of their lawyer and decide to let the court deal reach a conclusion.

It is worthwhile understanding at the outset that, in addition to your lawyers’ fees for advice in this area, you will need to budget anything between £3,000 to £4,000 for the following:

  • Court fees.
  • Valuer’s 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 for a barrister to represent you at any hearings.

Tips for controlling the cost of divorce

Based on many years of experience our lawyers have compiled the following tips for controlling costs.

Agree a fixed fee
At each stage of your case ask your lawyer for a fixed fee. Make sure you are clear what is included in the fixed fee. Ask also about any additional costs for example 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 charges levied by your lawyer will depend on their level of experience and expertise in family law. Lower hourly rates are often charged by junior or unqualified lawyers. At Woolley & Co all our lawyers are fully qualified and have specialised in family law for many years. This knowledge and experience means they understand the Court process, can quickly grasp the relevant points of your case and advise accordingly.

Give clear instructions
Make sure your lawyer is clear in what you want to achieve. Avoid changing your mind or moving the goal posts when it gets to the point of making an agreement with the other side. Ambiguous statements can result in unnecessary work and time delays.

Consider all options for resolving any disputes
There are now a number of methods for discussing and settling the financial and other issues that arise on separation or divorce. Your solicitor they will discuss the options with you. It is important to be realistic about which is going to work for you. If your partner is refusing to accept what is happening, it may take a letter from a solicitor to persuade them to take their own legal advice to move things along. It may also be that your situation involves an urgent issue that needs to be addressed quickly through official channels.

Do your homework 
When you divorce, both you and your spouse will need to provide financial disclosure. A solicitor cannot give you definitive advice about the fairness of a proposed financial settlement without full disclosure and a Judge requires a minimum level of disclosure from both parties before they can finalise an order. You can prepare by gathering together the documents and information your lawyer tells you will be required.

Do some thinking too. Consider where you and your children will live. If you want to stay in your home can you afford to do so? If the house is sold, could you afford to purchase a suitable property for you and children who will be living with you? Speak to mortgage advisors to find out what your mortgage capacity is and speak to estate agents to see how much suitable properties are selling for in the area you wish to live.

Do as much preparation work yourself as possible
How much are you comfortable doing yourself varies from person to person.  It may be with guidance and support from your lawyer you are able to conduct a fair part of the proceedings yourself. The more you do, in terms of preparing and providing information, the less your lawyer will need to do.

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, Woolley & Co can recommend highly skilled and qualified divorce counsellors who are trained to help people through the emotional trauma of relationship breakdown. They too charge by the hour but normally at a much lower rate than a fully qualified lawyer.

Need further help or advice?

Take advantage of an initial telephone chat about your situation and the options available to you, call Woolley & Co on 0800 321 3832 to speak with one of our lawyers.

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