The cost of living crisis is having a huge impact on couples wanting to divorce in the UK. With couples struggling to make ends meet, many are finding that they can’t afford to go their separate ways. So is it really any wonder that more and more couples are deciding to stay together, even if they’re not happy? Or is there still hope for those looking to break free from an unhappy marriage?
I spoke with the cost of living reporter from Sky News yesterday, who is writing about couples who feel they have to stay together because they can’t afford to divorce or separate. She wanted to know the scale of the problem, if any help was available, and what somebody could do who was struggling financially but wanted to get a divorce.
When couples separate, there are two considerations, the actual divorce, which is the legal ending of the marriage, and any financial arrangements that are made legally binding by a court-approved consent order.
The impact of the cost of living crisis on divorce is relatively straightforward, as it’s about basic affordability. However, financial agreements are impacted by wider economic issues like inflation and rising interest rates because they can stop some people from taking over the mortgage or buying their ex out of the former family home.
This is the first of two articles to examine the impact of the cost of living crisis on divorcing couples. This week’s article will focus on divorce and how you can get a divorce if you haven’t got a lot of money. Next week, we’ll look at the impact of current economic issues on financial settlements.
How big of a problem is the cost of living crisis on divorce?
There are about 100,000 divorces annually in England and Wales. Based on inquiries and conversations, for every person ready to divorce, at least five others currently feel financially trapped in their marriage. So, by this estimation, up to a million people could be trapped in a loveless marriage.
Perhaps more telling is the number of people searching for ways to keep their divorce costs low. In 2020 I wrote an article titled Is there such a thing as a free divorce? to help people struggling to afford their divorce during the covid lockdowns. In July this year, the number of people reading increased by 4200%, coinciding with the Government’s announcement about the cost of living emergency payments. People searching for the article jumped from 375 to almost 14,000 a week, and it’s remained at this level for the last four months.
How does the cost of living crisis affect getting a divorce?
The impact of the cost of living crisis on divorce is basic affordability. In most cases, the biggest obstacle is the court fee, which is £593. The next cost is the approach you take to divorce. The traditional solicitor-led divorce will cost about £900, an online divorce service £250, or you could take a DIY approach which costs nothing more than your time.
Does the Government provide any help for couples impacted by the cost of living crisis?
Help is available from the Government. The court fee of £593 for divorce is a big barrier for those on a low income. But you won’t have to pay the court fee if you have savings of less than £3000 and your monthly wage is less than £1170 or receive certain benefits.
You can also earn an extra £265 each month for each child you have. For example, if you have two children, you can earn up to £1700 and still be eligible for the help with fees scheme.
If your income is higher, you will be required to pay a fee to the court. However, you may still be entitled to a reduction. As a rough guide, you could earn up to £2190 a month before tax and still get the fee at least partly reduced. The chart below shows how much you will pay based on your monthly wage.
The Government has done a good job digitally transforming the divorce process from a confusing and painfully slow paper service to an online service. It’s now easier than ever for someone to do their own divorce online, and many do. But it requires a level of confidence and technological and organisational skills. You see, divorce is not like taxing your car online. It’s a multipart process requiring the applicant to do things over seven to eight months. So, you need to be organised and look out for various communications from the court and respond appropriately.
Although the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 attempts to simplify the terminology, an overall understanding of the process is still needed. On top of that, with divorce often comes emotions like fear, worry and sadness that cloud our judgment and ability to carry out the necessary steps to complete a divorce. This is why people use our service because they don’t want to go through divorce on their own. They want support.
Most people have no prior experience of divorce and no one to turn to. It can be an incredibly lonely and confusing time. I know this from my own experience. The pain of my own divorce drove me to start Easy Online Divorce to help others.
Even though the cost of our service is very accessible at £249, this is becoming more unaffordable for some families. As a result, we’ve introduced an instalment package for the most vulnerable, where the cost of divorce can be spread over three months. People who need this service typically can’t get credit, so we fund the instalments ourselves to help those who need our help the most.
What can you do if you want a divorce during the cost of living crisis?
The first step is to see if you can get help with the court fees. Use the chart above to see what you are likely to pay based on your monthly income.
The second step is to decide how you will do the divorce itself. Most couples these days do not need a solicitor to manage the divorce for them. But if you did go to a high street solicitor, you’d be looking at around £900 for them to handle your divorce for you.
At the opposite end of the scale is the DIY option using the online gov.uk site or a paper postal application. While this option can be daunting, we have plenty of resources on how to divorce, so with a bit of research and patience, you can divorce yourself even in these really tough economic times.
A third option is to use our managed divorce service which is £249. We will take away the stress and support you throughout the process. And for those who need additional help, we have an instalment offer where you can spread the cost over three-monthly payments.
So, if you want to divorce but are worried about affordability, what are your options? You could try the DIY option outlined in this article and see how it goes. However, this method requires some effort on your part and may not produce the results you desire. The other option is to use our manage divorce service, which is £249. You can even spread the cost over three months and start your divorce today for only £99. You can find more information about our service here.
I hope that this article has helped you see that you can afford to divorce even during the cost of living crisis. If you have any questions or would like more information, please get in touch – I’d be happy to help!