Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos paid the world’s largest divorce settlement of $38 billion to former wife MacKenzie. Image (AP)
Online searches for advice on ending a marriage peak at this time of year. How much does a divorce cost in 2024 — and is there a good way to do it?
January is the time of year when Google searches for “How much does a divorce cost?” and “How to get a divorce” spike the most. There’s nothing like the festive season for intensifying marital problems, especially with the current cost of living worries.
The average cost of divorce is £14,500 once you’ve factored in all the extra expenses of one household becoming two, and the current cost of living crisis where mortgage rates, rental fees and heating bills have shot up.
But before you give up in despair, this is an average, and it also doesn’t consider that there is a good, a bad and an ugly way of getting divorced.
The bad way to get divorced
The Times ran a story last week about Harry (not his real name), who told his wife of 14 years he wanted a divorce after finding out she was having an affair. They agreed on an equal split of assets and 50/50 shared care of their son and instructed solicitors.
Harry’s wife moved out and rented a house in their village, which was not ideal for giving each other space but good for their son. But they couldn’t find a buyer for the family home because house prices were falling. Harry didn’t want to accept a lower offer and knock a load off the asking price.
Meanwhile, fuelled, according to Harry, by his ex-wife’s very litigious lawyer, things took a very bad turn for the worse. Their combined legal fees to date are £250,000.
To make matters worse, the interest rate on their mortgage doubled, and after his ex-wife’s rent became unaffordable, she was forced to move back into the marital home with Harry. Can you imagine how soul-crushing it would be to share your house with your ex after all that?
The ugly way to get divorced
There is no shortage of horror stories when it comes to divorce. Take the case of Crowther v Crowther & Ors where the judge said that the divorcing husband and wife argued over “almost every imaginable issue, no matter how trivial”, incurring legal costs of £2.3 million when they only had £1.8 million of assets. In the end, the judge was left with dividing the debts fairly between the parties rather than any assets.
The judge said that the only beneficiaries of this divorce were the “specialist and high-quality lawyers,” and the main losers “are probably the children who, quite apart from the emotional pain of seeing their parents involved in such bitter proceedings, will be deprived of monies which I am sure their parents would otherwise have wanted them to benefit from in due course.”
It’s easy to dismiss this as a problem for the wealthy, but it happens across all levels. Last year, a judge finalised a couple’s divorce from Torquay, whose legal costs came to £60,000 — three times the worth of their assets of £20,000.
The good way to get divorced
If fighting over finances through the courts sounds like a bad idea – that’s my intention. As a divorced man and founder of Easy Online Divorce, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to keep the divorce process amicable. But it’s worth the effort for the sake of your well-being and that of your children and to keep as much of your hard-earned cash away from your local solicitor.
If there is such a thing as a good divorce, it is reaching a fair agreement over finances with the least amount of conflict and without blowing a fortune on legal fees in the quickest time possible.
Once you’ve agreed on how to split your finances, you can get the agreement written into a consent order. Once approved by a court, a consent order makes your financial agreement legally binding, which means that neither of you can change your mind or go back on your agreement.
The order can describe how you will deal with property, pensions and other assets when you divorce and even how you will deal with liabilities such as loans and credit card debt.
You must have started divorce proceedings and have been granted permission to divorce (known as the conditional order) by the court before your consent order can be sent to the court for approval.
How much does a good divorce cost?
A divorce with a financial consent order costs only £699 and takes just over seven months. In addition to this are court fees of £593 that apply to all divorces in England and Wales unless you are on a low income or benefits.
To get a good divorce, you must have been married for at least 12 months, England and Wales must be the permanent home for at least one of you, and most importantly – you and your ex must be in agreement or, at the very least want to reach a fair financial split.
Conclusion: Getting a good divorce
Thankfully, nowadays, most miserable courtroom dramas are found on TV shows (The Crown Season 5, anyone?). That isn’t to say you can’t end up in court if you’re not careful. Divorce is a highly emotional time, and it’s very easy to get caught up in a conflict. You might not be able to control the timing of your divorce and financial split, but if you can, wait until your situation has calmed down before heading into negotiation. When emotions are high, it’s so easy to get caught up in the moment where the smallest concession feels like a major loss.
When you are ready, begin to plan what your financial split might look like. The starting point is to work out what marital assets you have. You can read our guide on how to reach a financial settlement here.
Once you have a clear idea of what your financial split will look like, you can work out what divorce service you need, making sure that you are not paying over the odds or for services you don’t need.
Going through a divorce might be one of the hardest things you have to face. But with the right guidance and tools, it’s possible to emerge on the other side relatively unscathed with a stable and secure financial future.
I hope you have found this article helpful. If you have any questions or need further clarity, email or call us on 0204 530 8101 or book a free consultation with one of our friendly divorce experts here.