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Who pays the divorce costs? UK

Divorce can be a very challenging time for married couples who are separating. Alongside the emotional and legal challenges, many people’s initial thoughts are ‘how much will a divorce cost?’.

Understanding the laws around who pays for the divorce costs can help you begin to prepare yourself financially for the divorce process. In the UK, who pays for the divorce costs can depend on which partner applies for the divorce. 

There is a common misconception that the person who pays for the divorce is the partner who does not file for the divorce (the respondent), rather than the partner who does file for the divorce (the petitioner).

However, this is not the case. Most of the time, it will be the petitioner who pays the divorce costs in the UK. This means that generally, the person who files for the divorce pays the fees. 

Who pays the divorce costs

How Much Does A Divorce Cost In The UK?

The court fee for applying for a divorce is £550. This is a flat fee that is required no matter the reason for divorce. This is payable whether you use a solicitor or decide to do it yourself.

Learn more about divorce costs in the UK.

Does The Petitioner Always Pay the Divorce Costs?

In the majority of divorce cases, it will be the petitioner who pays the divorce costs.

However, couples can always come to an agreement between themselves and split the divorce costs equally. Who pays for the divorce can therefore depend on how amicable the separation is and how well the couple gets along.

The petitioner will always pay the fee at the start of the process. Although in some instances, such as if the petitioner is receiving benefits, they may be able to get help with the court fee of £550.

In many cases, the petitioner may want the respondent to pay the legal costs instead, particularly if the respondent is being blamed for the marriage breaking down. For instance, if the respondent has committed adultery. In England and Wales, the petitioner is able to submit a claim for the respondent to pay the costs of divorce.


Who Pays for Divorce Court Fees?

Getting a divorce involves several financial considerations. Of course, it’s important to consider any financial provisions, but it’s also important to consider the required legal fees for getting a divorce.

No matter how a divorce is filed for, whether that be online, through a solicitor or directly by the petitioner, there will always be a court fee to pay. Court fees cover important processes such as the costs of paperwork submission.


When can the petitioner ask the respondent to pay the divorce costs?

In order to get a divorce in the UK, there must be reasonable ‘grounds’ for separating. In England and wales, the are five grounds for divorce include:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Two years’ separation (with consent from the other party)
  • Five years’ separation (no consent necessary)

While the petitioner is usually the one who pays the divorce costs, the respondent may be made responsible for costs where there is fault-based reason on their behalf. 

Claims for costs are usually only successful when the marriage has broken down because of a fault-based ground, which includes unreasonable behaviour, adultery and desertion.

A claim for the respondent to pay divorce costs on the grounds of two years’ or 5 years’ separation is less likely to be successful in court.

However, these costs do not include the financial proceedings, which are always separate to the divorce itself. Each party has to pay their own costs for the process of agreeing the financial settlement.

Although quite rare, if your spouse has been particularly obstructive or unreasonable or has refused to disclose their finances, then there is a possibility of persuading the judge that your spouse should pay for the costs of the financial settlement. Austin Kemp’s experienced solicitors can advise you if this could be applicable to your situation.


Who Pays For A Divorce In The Case of Adultery In the UK?

If a divorce is filed on the grounds of adultery, where one partner has had sex with another individual outside of the marriage, the petitioner has the right to seek the claim of costs against the respondent.

This can mean that the respondent who has committed adultery will sometimes be required to pay 100% of the divorce costs. In this case, adultery must usually be a proven fact in court.

If the blame for the marriage breakdown cannot be attributed to the respondent, it is unlikely that the petitioner’s claim for divorce costs will be successful. 


How To Get The Respondent To Pay The Divorce Costs

If you started the divorce proceedings you are known as the petitioner, you can ask that your spouse pay the costs. You are only allowed to ask for the costs to cover the divorce itself and you will not be allowed to ask for costs with regards to the financial side of the divorce.

If you are the petitioner and want the respondent to pay your costs then you will need to apply to the court for an order to make the respondent do so. It is important to let your solicitor know at the start of the divorce proceedings that you intend to make a claim for the respondent to pay the divorce costs.

Normally, it is advisable for the petitioner to reach an agreement with the respondent on divorce costs, before the divorce petition is issued. This way, when the decree nisi stage is reached, the court can make a ‘costs order’.

Otherwise, if an agreement cannot be reached regarding divorce costs and the petitioner decides to go ahead and submit the petition anyway, there may need to be a court hearing to determine who will pay the costs. This can not only delay the divorce process, but can also add to the overall costs. What’s more, the respondent may choose to withdraw their consent due to the claim for costs, delaying the process further.


Resolving Divorce Costs

Going through a divorce is a very difficult time for both parties involved, bringing stress and an emotional toll on each partner. It may be worth balancing out how much upset asking the respondent to pay the legal costs would cause against how much the money would be worth to you.

In some cases, the court does not need to be involved in your divorce’s financial arrangements if you are able to negotiate and agree to the terms between yourselves. If you were to claim the divorce costs from the respondent through court then this could make them less willing to negotiate with you.

As always, it is important to get independent legal advice before making your decision. Before submitting your divorce petition, it’s highly recommended to seek independent legal advice, suited to your individual circumstances, from an experienced solicitor, such as Austin Kemp.


Speak To A Divorce Lawyer

The costs of divorce are the first thoughts for any separating couple. For advice around divorce costs and processes, get in touch with our expert divorce lawyers. 

Call our team on 0845 862 5001, or email

Austin Kemp have offices across the UK, find a divorce solicitor near you or contact us for more details.

Other articles that may be of interest to you

How long does a divorce take?

What is the divorce process?

When is decree absolute granted in a divorce?

Decree Nisi – What does this mean in a divorce?

What are the first steps to divorce?

Is a cheap divorce really possible?

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24th March 2020

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