What is the Cost of a Divorce in the UK?
The average cost of divorce in the UK is £14,561 according to Aviva. It is not surprising that many people stay in an unhappy relationship to avoid the costs and stress of a divorce. But done well, your divorce can and will cost you a lot less. In some cases you can divorced in the UK for absolutely nothing.
Cost of Divorce UK
Unless you are on certain benefits or low income you will normally have to pay court fees of £592 for a divorce. This is the fee you pay the court to process your divorce petition. If you are on certain benefits or on a low income, you can apply for a fee remission. This can be done online here.
If you are applying for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behavior or adultery, then the court will usually state that the respondent is responsible for paying the court fee. But you will normally have to pay the fee first. You can of course agree between you how the court fee will be paid and many of Mediate UK clients share the cost of this equally between them. When the no fault divorce law comes into effect in April 2022, you do not need to apportion blame, so may choose to share the costs between you or they can be paid by the petitioner themselves.
It is important to note that the court fee does not include your legal fees if you are using a solicitor or barrister and it is unlikely that the grounds for divorce will mean you need to pay for the other parties’ legal costs. The court fee does not include fees for resolving issues on child arrangements or finances.
What other costs might I have to pay?
We have already seen that in most cases you will need to pay £592 for your divorce (the costs went up in October 2021) from £550. But for many people, there will be further costs involved:
Financial Consent Order
If you are having a consent order to make your financial agreement legally binding, then you will need to pay court fees of £53.
However, you should always instruct a solicitor to draft your consent order. Drafting costs can vary from £400 through an online service, to £4,000 plus VAT for a solicitor drafted order.
Just as with any purchase, it is important to shop around, compare quotes and service and also establish what is involved in each quote received. For example, if the court asks questions on your consent order is there an extra charge? What if you need to add a Pension Sharing Order?
You can download a parenting plan for free from the Cafcass website. Working together to put this plan in place won’t cost you anything extra. It is rare that couples feel they need to have their parenting plan made legally binding into a child arrangements order, but if you decide it is in the best interests of the children to do so, then there are court fees payable of £232.
If you cannot agree between yourselves on the financial agreement and/or on the arrangements for your children when you divorce, then you can use family mediation to help you finalise an agreement. According to the Family Mediation Council, the average cost of mediation in the UK is £140 per person per hour. Costs can vary and there will usually be a charge for the paperwork you need at the end of the mediation process, laying out you agreement.
In 2022, Mediate UK charge £120 per person per hour. We are the only mediation service to offer fixed fee mediation and legal packages, giving you a target and helping you budget for a legally binding agreement.
The average length of time for mediation is 2-3 session for child arrangements and 2-3 session for finances. You will need to meet the mediator individually in a meeting called a MIAM.
You can use a solicitor to manage your divorce paperwork, or you can file for a divorce online yourself for free (other than the court fee). If you use a solicitor to manage the paperwork, they may charge a fixed fee for this. It is really important to check what is included in this fixed fee as it is unlikely that any financial or parenting arrangements are included. It is usually for the divorce paperwork to be processed and where the divorce is unlikely to be contested by the other party
A client of Mediate UK explained they had recently spent £12,000 on solicitor fees trying to get the divorce paperwork signed and agreed by the other party. This did not include any discussions on child arrangements or a financial settlement. It is very easy to spend thousands of pounds unnecessarily on a divorce.
For dealing with all other matters of your divorce, or if not included in any fixed fee, a solicitor will charge between £200 and £500 per hour plus VAT. They will usually charge in increments of 6-minutes and this will include reading and replying to emails, phone calls and sending out letters. You should therefore only use your solicitor to handle the matters that are really important to move matters forwards, legal advice and the legal paperwork (such as drafting a consent order on agreement) and not keep them updated on every twist and turn of your divorce or separation.
You may need a barrister if you are going to court for a hearing to do with your child arrangements or finances. A barrister can set their own fees and may agree a fixed rate for you. Depending on experience, your barrister may charge between £1,000 to £5,000 per day. But costs can vary by a wide margin.
Apply to Court
If you need to apply to court for a child arrangement order or a financial order, then you will need to pay court fees. You will also need to have conducted a MIAM in most cases, unless certain exemptions apply. Current court fees are:
- Application for a financial order: £275
- Application for a Child Arrangements order: £232
What if we cannot agree on the financial or parenting arrangements?
If you cannot agree between yourselves, or through family mediation, then you may need to apply to the court for an order. Before you do so, take a look at our 11 ways to reach an agreement on a divorce or separation, as you may like to consider a barrister review or arbitration instead.
If you are represented at court by a solicitor or barrister you will usually be quoted £20,000 plus VAT for a financial order, if you go to a final order hearing. For child arrangements, the structure is less fixed, but you should budget between £5,000 to £15,000.
You may have seen stories in the press about divorce costs going into the hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Remember that the child arrangements and financial arrangements are separate areas of law and will not be dealt with at the same time in court.
There can be a cost for valuing items as part of your financial disclosure. Costs again can vary, but below is a list of items you may need to get valued and the average cost range:
- Pension (not in payment): £0 – One free Cash Equivalent Value per year. If you require an updated valuation in the same year, you may need to pay a fee.
- Pension (in payment); £400 to £1,000 plus VAT for a Cash Equivalent Balance (CEB)
- Actuary or PODE valuation: If you wish to offset your pension value against current assets, equalise pension payments in retirement or if you have a final salary pension, you may need a actuary or a pension on divorce expert (PODE) to value the pensions. Costs can vary but would generally be between £2,000 and £6,000 plus VAT. This will depend on how many pensions you each have and the complexity of the pensions.
- Business Valuation: If you cannot agree on the valuation of the business, you may need to instruct a single joint expert. This will be a neutral valuation that the court will accept as being the value of the business. Expect to pay around £4,000 plus VAT for this.
- Chartered Surveyor. If you cannot agree on the value of a property, you can instruct a surveyor to give a valuation. This can be helpful on more unusual properties, commercial properties or properties requiring a lot of work. Expect to pay upwards of £600 plus VAT for a valuation report, which would be accepted by the courts.
Pension Sharing Costs
If you are moving a pension fund to your spouse as part of your divorce, both the old pension company and new pension company may make a charge. You should agree who will cover these costs as part of your overall financial agreement.
A divorce is an opportunity to look at your finances as they may be changing substantially. It is important to get good financial advice at this time. Most financial advisors will make a charge for their services, after an initial free conversation. They will lay out these charges in advance for you.
If you are selling, buying or changing the deeds on a property, you are likely to have to pay an solicitor or conveyancer to do this for you. Your divorce solicitor will not usually handle this side of the agreement. Expect to pay £300 to £1500 plus VAT for conveyancing fees.
Costs of Moving and Selling
When you divorce, there will not be an automatic transfer of your estate to your spouse. It is recommended to update or write a new will after your divorce has finalised, in order to make sure your wishes are realised on your death. A will can cost between £80 to £300 plus VAT depending on how complicated it is and the method used.
The Difference Between a Contested and Uncontested Divorce
The majority of divorces are uncontested. This means that neither party opposes the divorce. If someone defends the divorce proceedings then it becomes contested. If the divorce case is contested, the process will be more time-consuming, expensive, and you will both have to go to court. The new no fault divorce law should reduce the amount of contested divorces and therefore the overall cost of divorce in the UK.
Does My Ex-Spouse Pay for My Legal Costs?
If you go to court for child arrangements or a financial order, then you will normally pay your own legal fees. In some cases the court can make an order for costs. This will usually be where one party has been deliberately unreasonable or irresponsible in their conduct regarding the negotiations, meaning costs have increased. For example, not responding to solicitor letters, not attempting family mediation, not making reasonable offers or failing to provide a financial disclosure could all be factors a court will take into account when looking at allocation of legal costs. Our blog here goes into more detail about how the court can apportion costs
Can I get divorced for free?
Yes. If you are on low income or certain benefits you can apply for a fee remission on the court fee for a divorce. You can also use family mediation to help you reach an agreement on the financial or child arrangements and if you are assessed as eligible you can apply for legal aid to cover costs.
Do the grounds for divorce or who was to blame affect the costs?
Not usually. If you divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour or adultery you can ask the court for the respondent to cover the costs of the petition (£592).
Is it cheaper to divorce after 2 years separation or with the no-fault divorce?
No. The court fees are the same at £592. However under the new law, you don’t have to give grounds, so it is less likely to be contested, reducing legal costs associated with contesting a divorce.
Can I get legal aid for my legal costs?
Legal aid is only available for solicitor fees if you have been subjected to domestic abuse and can provide certain proof of this, such as a police, domestic abuse charity or doctors report. There is legal aid available for people on low incomes for family mediation.
Am I able to divorce without paying a solicitor?
Yes. You can process the divorce application online yourself. You can also agree a parenting plan between yourselves and even a financial agreement. To have any financial agreement made legally binding you will usually need a solicitor to draft the paperwork.
What am I entitled to financially on a divorce?
Financial orders are based very much on need and the Section 25 factors. Take a look at our “Ultimate Guide to a Financial Settlement” for more information on how the courts look at who get what on a divorce
How can I save costs on divorce UK?
- Process the divorce paperwork yourself
- Use Family Mediation rather than going to court
- Use your solicitor purely for legal advice and preparing legal paperwork
- Try to get a fixed fee for all legal services
- Agree as much as you can between yourselves and narrow the scope of any dispute where possible
- Focus on needs rather than blame
It is very easy to spend several thousands of pounds on your divorce and get absolutely nowhere. It is the disputes during a divorce that cause the divorce costs to start racking up. Also consider that spending more money does not mean you are more likely to ‘win’ your case. Family law just does not work like that. In many cases the cost of going to court with representation is more than the amount couples are in dispute over. The courts will not look to punish or reward. So try to keep as much money as possible in the family pot and narrow down the issues you cannot agree on. If you want to find out how family mediation can help reduce costs and resolve disputes get in touch with our friendly team.