It’s no secret that divorce can be a costly process. From solicitors fees to court fees, some divorcing couples can end up spending thousands of pounds to obtain their divorce – and that doesn’t even include the cost of any potential financial agreements that you’ll enter into with your partner afterwards. With mortgage payments going up and up, it’s not a surprise that many couples feel like they can’t afford to divorce officially.
What many lawyers and solicitors don’t want you to know is that the divorce process doesn’t have to be expensive. Typically, an expensive divorce only occurs when the process is prolonged unnecessarily, either by financial disputes or custody disputes. If you manage to simplify the process – for example, via a third party, such as an online divorce provider – you’ll cut back on the costs involved, cut back on time spent in court, and get on with rebuilding your life post-separation.
In this article, we’re going to go over what costs you can expect during your divorce, what the average divorce costs in the UK, and how you can minimise the financial impact of the process by using an online divorce provider.
So, how much does a divorce cost in the UK in 2023? Let’s take a look.
How much does a divorce cost in the UK?
The average cost of a divorce in the UK in 2022 is £14,500, although this sum takes into account all lifestyle changes being made as you transition from married to single life (such as renting a new home, no longer splitting bills, etc.) However, the divorce itself will typically cost less.
Before the new laws came into force in England and Wales in April 2022, couples could try to offload any divorce fees onto their partner, citing infidelity, desertion, or prolonged absence. The introduction of no-fault divorce across the board means that each party is responsible for paying their own fees.
Now, it costs the average divorce petitioner around £1000-£1500 to complete the process, with £593 covering the court fee and the rest accounting for legal costs. The respondent (provided that you’re not applying for joint divorce) will typically pay reduced solicitor’s fees, and won’t need to pay the court fees.
However, certain circumstances can mean that you end up paying higher costs. Possible factors that can influence your divorce cost include the following:
If you share children with your partner, you might have to spend longer reaching a custody agreement that works for both of you. If you find it difficult to reach an agreement, this can incur various court appearances, pushing up the overall cost of your legal fees.
If your finances are tied to your partner, and you share several assets, it can be difficult to come to a quick financial agreement. This can mean a lengthy, drawn-out process in which both parties will end up paying excessive legal fees. If you don’t have any financial ties to your partner, you do have the option of applying for a clean break order, aka a full severing of all financial ties. (Although do note that this is not available to those who share dependent children.)
Whether you use an online divorce or solicitors
Your largest expense during your divorce proceeding is most likely going to be your solicitors’ fees. Divorce solicitors can charge up to £350-500 an hour for their services, with many couples ending up paying tens of thousands in legal fees during a lengthy divorce. However, some couples now prefer to divorce via a third party – such as an online divorce provider – which helps cut back (or eliminate entirely) any legal fees and court appearances.
What legal fees will I have to pay when getting a divorce?
In general, the minimum amount you’ll have to pay during a divorce is the £593 court fee, provided that you’re the divorce petitioner. However, those who receive certain government benefits – or those on low incomes – can apply to reduce or waive this fee.
To waive or reduce the fee, you’ll need to earn less than £1170 as a single person, or £1345 if you have a partner. This threshold increases by £265 for each dependent child you have. You’ll also be eligible for government help paying the fee if you receive any of the following benefits:
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Income Support
- Universal Credit (with an annual income of less than £6,000 per year)
- Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit)
Court appearance fees
Aside from the £593 court fee paid to cover administrative costs, you may also need to appear in court during your divorce process. While court is best avoided during a divorce proceeding, appearances in court may be necessary if you and your partner are unable to reach a financial or custody agreement.
If you end up going to court to resolve these disputes, you’ll need to pay an additional £245 court fee, as well as eye-watering legal fees that can often mount into the tens of thousands for each party. This is because you’ll most likely need to appear in court more than once, and your former partner can even dispute your settlements and bring you back to court again. Taking a divorce to court is incredibly expensive, and should always be avoided where possible. For victims of domestic violence or abuse, some legal aid is available.
Hiring a divorce solicitor
While legal fees can be incredibly expensive, many couples will still hire a divorce solicitor to guide them through the process and help them get the best financial agreement (and the best custody settlement if children are involved.) Hiring legal help is most likely going to be the most costly aspect of your divorce, with solicitor’s fees in the UK costing between £150 and £350 an hour. In London, this figure can even increase to £500 an hour.
While hiring a divorce lawyer can be costly, it makes good financial sense for some. If there are numerous high-value assets at stake – such as property and investments – a solicitor can help you fight for a better settlement. Just be aware that conflict increases the cost, and the extra money you get may end up in the solicitor’s pocket rather than your own.
Child maintenance costs
If you share dependent children, you’ll also need to reach an agreement on child support payments. Couples are able to organise child maintenance payments themselves as part of their financial agreement if they wish, but there are also basic rates to fall back on to simplify the process.
Child maintenance payments are subject to the non-custodial parent’s income, and the thresholds are as follows:
For those on a weekly income of £200-£800, you’ll pay what is known as the basic rate. This means you’ll pay a weekly sum of £38 for one child, £51 for two children, and £61 for three or more children.
If your weekly income is between £100 and £200, you’ll pay 7% of your first £100 (£7) and then a further 17% on weekly earnings.
If you receive government benefits or your weekly income is less than £100, you’ll pay a flat rate of £7 per week.
For those whose weekly earnings are under £7, you won’t be obliged to pay any child maintenance payments.
The above rates are applicable only when the dependent child lives full-time with the other parent. However, if the child splits time living between both parents’ homes, any child maintenance payments will decrease as follows:
- 52 – 103 nights spent with non-custodial parent: 1/7th reduction per child
- 104 – 155 nights spent with non-custodial parent: 2/7th reduction per child
- 156 – 174 nights spent with non-custodial parent: 3/7th reduction per child
- 175 nights or more spent with parent: 50% total reduction, and an additional 7% reduction per child
If one parent is paying child maintenance to children from another relationship (and earns between £200-£3000 per week) this will be taken into account when calculating payments. Rather than reducing payments to their younger children, Child Maintenance Services will usually reduce their ‘considered income’ instead. These reductions are typically 11%, 14%, and 16% respectively (for one, two, or three or more supported children.)
Getting a financial settlement
During the divorce proceedings, you’ll also need to agree to a financial settlement with your former partner. A financial settlement is an agreement you and your partner can reach either on your own, through mediation, or by having your solicitors draw up a financial order (also referred to as a consent order.) Opting for a mediator to resolve financial matters can cost around £100 per hour. If you opt for a solicitor, this can cost £150-£500 an hour.
The cost of submitting a consent order to the court will be a fixed fee of £53, and once it’s been approved by the court, it will be considered legally binding. In some cases, the court may find that the financial settlement is unfair to one party and refuse to approve it, in which case you’ll need to consult with your solicitors and reconsider its terms. This will mean further costs in the form of legal fees, so it’s best to reach a fair agreement that both parties are happy with.
If a financial agreement cannot be reached, your divorce might go to court. For many, this is worse-case-scenario territory; as previously mentioned, going to court can end up costing you tens of thousands of pounds in legal fees.
- The minimum you’ll need to pay to get divorced is £593, although those on a low income or benefits are eligible to reduce or waive this fee.
- The most expensive factor in most divorces will be legal fees, with costs often reaching £30,000+.
- While legal aid does exist, it’s only available for victims of domestic abuse, including coercive control and financial abuse.
- The best way to avoid a costly divorce is to opt for an online divorce service, which can help you save money on both legal fees and court appearances. Online divorce services will handle all the divorce paperwork, allowing you to obtain your divorce without having to leave your home.