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Divorce Costs UK: Complete Guide

Divorce Costs in the United Kingdom seem to be on the rise. In 2018, research revealed that couples spend on average £14,561 on legal and lifestyle costs when they break up, a 17% increase since 2014.

Aviva’s Family Finances Report addressed divorce costs: as well as legal fees, which sat at an average of £2,679 per person, an average of £3,321 was spent on setting up a new home and £4,810 on a new car.

The research also showed that, on average, money matters took 14.5 months to settle after a split, three months longer than in 2014. Over a third of couples questioned said that they found the process worse than expected.

How much does a divorce cost?

While there are often many variables in the divorce process which can significantly alter the cost of, having an idea of how much you may be expected to pay can help you to budget, both now and for the future.

In 2022, the fee for applying for a divorce in England and Wales is £593. This does not include any legal advice or help to agree a financial settlement: it is simply the fee for the divorce application.

Although it is not necessary to seek legal advice before applying for a divorce in England and Wales, it is highly recommended that you have at least one appointment with a divorce solicitor so that you know what to expect and fully understand your rights.

A solicitor will also be able to help you complete the divorce application, ensuring there are no mistakes which could cause unnecessary delays further down the line.

The real cost of a divorce

As well as the fee to apply for a divorce, many people will also opt to seek legal advice from a solicitor. How much a divorce will cost will depend on factors such as:

  • Whether one person ‘defends’ (disagrees with) the divorce
  • Whether an agreement can be reached on how to split the finances
  • Whether an agreement can be reached on child arrangements

It’s often not the divorce process itself which causes costs to increase. When looking at how much a divorce may cost, it’s also important to consider both the financial settlement and child arrangements.

Agreeing a financial settlement in particular has the potential to increase how much a divorce will cost. If, for example, one spouse has complex international assets and investments, reaching a financial settlement may take longer and divorce costs may increase.

If both parties can reach an agreement between themselves (ideally with independent legal advice from their respective solicitors), divorce costs are likely to be lower. However, if help to reach an agreement is needed in the form of mediation or collaborative law, this could add to how much the divorce costs.

How to avoid costly court battles

When people think of divorce, it is often the lengthy, expensive court battles played out in the press are often the first things that come to mind.

Whilst it’s true that getting a divorce isn’t something that happens overnight and solicitor fees can add up, it is often the case that it’s the couple who cannot come to an agreement and end up in court who really see the costs pile up. 

Learn more about costly court battles and how to avoid them.

An expensive court battle

One divorce battle recently reported in the press was that of husband and wife, Michael and Margie Hanley.

The couple, who had been married for 33 years, could not agree on what to do with their holiday home in Cornamona, Ireland, now that they had decided to get a divorce. Mrs Hanley argued that Cornamona was her ancestral home and that Mr. Hanley was just punishing her by wanting to keep it. 

Mr. Hanley argued that he wanted to live in the house in Cornamona and that he should have it, not Mrs Hanley. 

After being unable to reach an agreement between themselves about their Cornamona house, the couple went to court. The house was estimated to be worth around £500,000. Legal fees were reportedly in excess of £800,000, in what was described as a “Titanic battle”.

The value of the house seems not to warrant the amount spent in fees. This makes this case particularly interesting, especially as the couple had between €10 million and €14 million to split between themselves in assets and cash. In the end, the couple reached a deal, with Mrs Hanley eventually getting the disputed property.

What can we learn from this court battle?

This case is a good example of why couples should try to reach a settlement about how to split their assets on divorce without going to court. Court costs can spiral and can sometimes turn out to be more than the original asset under dispute is actually worth. 

There are many different ‘tools’ that couples can use to work towards reaching an agreement outside of court and keep costs down. 

Collaborative law, where ‘four way meetings’ take place between you, your spouse and your respective solicitors, is becoming a popular option for divorcing couples. Alternatively, mediation, a flexible process with an impartial individual aiding your discussions, can be useful for some. If you feel unable to talk to your spouse directly, your solicitor can also negotiate on your behalf. 

By obtaining legal advice from a solicitor as early on as possible in the divorce process, you can gain a better understanding of what your settlement could look like. This can not only help to put your mind at rest but can also inform you of how best to start negotiations. 

If you are not yet married, a pre-nuptial agreement, which sets out what you and your spouse would get should you divorce in the future, could also be considered. Would it have made a difference for Mr. and Mrs Hanley? It is difficult to say a definitive yes or no. Although pre-nuptial agreements are not legally binding, a judge can take them into consideration as long as various criteria are met.

One thing is for sure: going to court can be very costly, so trying to reach an agreement outside of court should be encouraged wherever possible. However, for some it is unavoidable. 

While our expert family law solicitors are used to appearing in family courts up and down the country, we understand you are not. Our team will guide you through the process and make sure that you fully understand the possible outcomes and implications at each stage.

Divorce Costs and the financial settlement

As the Aviva divorce report shows, divorce can be both costly and time-consuming. Although the financial settlement is a separate process to the divorce itself, it is often this which takes the most time.

Moreover, there is the process of agreeing a financial settlement – or if this is not possible, asking a court to make the decision of how your assets will be divided upon divorce – which can take up the majority of the costs.

Will the use of a solicitor increase my divorce costs?

As we touched on above, the legal fees can take up a proportion of the divorce costs when a relationship comes to an end.

Of course, it is possible to divorce without a solicitor. There will still be court fees to pay, but there is no hiding from the fact that legal advice does come at a price.

However, having an experienced family lawyer to assist you throughout the divorce process, can be invaluable. Not only can receiving legal advice help you to make sure that you fully understand exactly what your rights are, it can also ensure that you know what a financial settlement, based on your individual circumstances, could look like. This way, you’ll be able to begin negotiations with your spouse with this important knowledge at the forefront of your mind.

Solicitors will also be able to help with negotiations if necessary. When many people think of divorce lawyers, they think of courtrooms and long, drawn-out legal battles. However, this really is the exception, rather than the norm, as a good family solicitor should be working with you to avoid this scenario, if possible.

Moreover, family lawyers trained in divorce can help if you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement about how your assets should be divided. This process, involving 4-way meetings between you, your spouse and your respective lawyers, is about working together to reach a financial settlement, rather than hostility and conflict.

Keeping divorce costs down

Most firms should be able to offer solicitors at different levels, so that you can choose a solicitor who is appropriate for your budget.

What’s more, you should be regularly updated regarding your costs throughout the process, so you can keep an eye on your finances.

Good family lawyers are not there to push up costs by drawing out your divorce. Receiving legal advice specific to your circumstances early on in the process, could put your mind at rest during what can be a very stressful time. In this way, family lawyers will help you to understand how you can work towards a financial settlement and, ultimately, move on with your life.

Is a cheap divorce possible?

Cutting back on legal costs and getting a cheap divorce may seem to be the most obvious option to help make money go further. But is a cheap divorce even an option? And if so, is getting a cheap divorce really worth it? We take a look at the true cost of a cheap divorce.

Learn more about cheap divorce.

What does a cheap divorce cost?

When people talk about a ‘cheap divorce’, they are usually referring to either dealing with the divorce process themselves, or using an online ‘cheap divorce’ website.

In England and Wales, it is possible to get a divorce without receiving any legal advice. At the time of writing, the cost of applying for a divorce is £593. This is the fee that you will have to pay to apply for your divorce yourself, either online or by post. This does not include any legal advice or any guidance when selecting your grounds for divorce.

Why get a cheap divorce?

Barely a week goes by when a celebrity divorce isn’t hitting the headlines. With large amounts of money involved, and often hefty legal fees, it isn’t surprising that many people decide to go down the ‘cheap divorce’ route.

However, it is often not the divorce process itself where the majority of the costs lie. Negotiations regarding the financial settlement, which normally run in parallel with the divorce process, are usually the most complex – and costly – part of a divorce, especially if an agreement cannot be reached and it is necessary to go to court.

Unless the divorce is contested, the divorce process is usually the most simple part of the whole task. The vast majority of divorces in England and Wales are uncontested (both parties agree to the divorce).

Is a cheap divorce really worth it?

As we touched on above, a cheap divorce is often viewed as a divorce without the cost of a solicitor.

While this is perfectly possible, it is always best to seek legal advice from an experienced solicitor, ideally before you start the divorce process. Not only will this help you to make sure that you fully understand your rights, but a good solicitor will also ensure that there are no mistakes on any of the forms which could cause unnecessary delays further down the line, needlessly dragging out what can be an extremely stressful process.

What’s more, getting legal advice can help to put your mind at rest about any part of the divorce process (or indeed the financial settlement) that you are unsure about.

Of course, a cheap divorce is always going to be a tempting option, especially when money is tight. But a cheap divorce without any legal advice could cause you more problems further down the line. And when it comes to agreeing a financial settlement, not having valuable legal advice regarding your options and rights could end up costing you more money in the future.

Is it possible for me to agree divorce fees at the outset?

Your divorce fees will vary depending on how complex your situation is. Usually, the largest cost associated with your divorce fees will be in regard to how your finances are settled between you and your spouse.

Can I have a fixed fee for my divorce?

At Austin Kemp we pride ourselves on offering divorce solutions suitable for you and the outcomes you envisage. We offer an initial divorce consultation with one of our experienced lawyers for a fixed fee where we will discuss your situation and needs with regard to your divorce.

After this meeting, we will provide you with a quote for what we think your divorce will cost. You are, of course, under no obligation to use our services.

Austin Kemp are experienced in helping high net worth individuals, or spouses of high net worth individuals, who have a large amount of assets and investments both in the UK and abroad. If this applies to you, a fixed fee divorce will generally not be suitable for your needs as we would recommend that you need a large amount of in-depth, specialist advice. We can sometimes, however, agree your divorce fees with you in advance for all of the legal work associated with your divorce.

Our focus as divorce specialists is for us to provide you with the advice in order to achieve the best possible outcome. We are sometimes able to agree fees in advance if you wish to go through mediation in order to settle your divorce, or if you would like to complete your divorce through a collaborative process – where we arrange and sit in on meetings with you and your spouse.

How much a divorce costs can spiral if an agreement about how to split the finances cannot be reached and it’s necessary to go to court.

Asking ‘how much does a divorce cost’ is like asking how long is a piece of string. There are various different factors that can come into play, changing the cost of a divorce.

How much a divorce will really cost will depend on your individual circumstances. A good divorce solicitor should be able to give you an estimate, after speaking with you about your situation.

Learn more about fixed divorce fees and whether they’re suitable for your needs.

How can our expert divorce solicitors help you?

Our expert divorce solicitors can help you with a range of legal issues:

Contact our expert divorce solicitors for advice

For more information call our divorce solicitors on 0845 862 5001 or email mail@austinkemp.co.uk.

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16th June 2022

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