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Is there such thing as a free divorce?

I originally wrote this article in 2020 during yet another lockdown. At the time, it was hard to imagine a worse situation to be in. Fast forward to 2022 and now look at us. The cost of food, fuel and energy has been rising at its highest rate for 40 years, and experts say the worse is yet to come. Money worries are maybe why google searches for ‘free divorce’ and ‘free divorce on universal credit’ increased visits to this article by more than 1000% over the weekend. Some information was outdated due to the new divorce law, so I’ve updated the article for 2023.

It’s fair to say that the last few years have been difficult. But one thing that remains the same is the growing interest in divorce before and after school holidays and towards the end of the year. This is when many people decide to close the door on old relationships to move on with their lives. The result is spikes in enquiries and applications for divorce. And with that comes searches for the elusive free divorce.

How to divorce for free

This year, more than ever, the cost of divorce is a major consideration. The rising cost of fuel for our cars and homes, the increase in the price of food and uncertainty about the future affect millions of people. While this is undoubtedly bad, one sliver of good news is that the possibility of a free divorce is attainable by more people.

The biggest financial hurdle facing someone wanting to divorce in England and Wales are the court fees. When filing for a divorce, the courts request that you pay £593 to cover their administrative costs. However, you may be exempt from this if you meet certain criteria.

Getting help with court fees

If you’re on certain benefits or have a low income with little or no savings, you might be able to get your court fee reduced, often to zero.

To be eligible, you need to have less than £3,000 in savings and investments if you’re under the age of 61, and under £16,000 if you are over 61.

You also either need to be on a low income or receive one of the following benefits:

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income Support
  • Universal Credit (and you earn less than £6,000 a year)
  • Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit)

If you’re not on any of those benefits, to get the fee completely waivered, you need to earn less than £1,170 a month before tax if you’re single or less than £1,345 if you have a partner.

You also have an extra allowance of £265 on top of that for each child you have. For example, if you have a partner and two children, you must earn less than £1,875 to be eligible for the ‘help with fees’ scheme.

My income is higher, there goes my chance of a free divorce…

Not so fast. If your income is higher than the numbers shown above, you will be required to pay a fee to the court. Fortunately, you may still be entitled to have the fee of £593 reduced, though you will be unable to obtain a free divorce. As a rough guide, you could earn up to £2,190 a month before tax and still get the fee at least partly reduced.

Many people feel trapped in a marriage because they think they can’t afford to divorce. We speak to people daily who didn’t realise they don’t have to pay court fees.

My income is low, but my partners isn’t- does that mean I can’t get a free divorce?

If your husband or wife is the person that you want to divorce, you don’t include their income in your help with fees application. Because you are divorcing them, you aren’t relying on their income to support you anymore, so you don’t have to include their earnings.

You can check your eligibility on the government website or send us an email.

Do It Yourself – Divorcing for free.

If you are eligible for help with fees, congratulations! You are one step closer to a free divorce. The next step is to obtain and correctly complete a series of documents. You will also need to make sure that you submit the documents to the court at the correct times.

You can apply for a divorce through the government website or download the documents here and do it by post.

The Three-Part Divorce Process

Divorce is a three-part process, and you will need to complete the following forms to start and finalise your divorce.

Step 1 – Application for Divorce/Dissolution

  • D8 – Divorce/Dissolution Petition

Step 2 – Application for a Conditional Order

  • D84– Application for Conditional Order
  • D80- Statement in Support of Divorce/Dissolution Petition

Step 3 – Application for a Final Order

  • D36 – Notice of Application for the Conditional Order to be made Final

With your court fees covered, DIY is the only method of obtaining a free divorce, but it’s only viable if you and your spouse agree to the divorce and why you’re getting one.

This DIY approach does come with a word of caution, though. You will need to take the time to research the procedure and learn the legal jargon to ensure you don’t make any mistakes. Because although you may be exempt from court fees, you will have to pay to amend any documents at £95 a time. And this fee will need to be paid repeatedly until the courts are satisfied that your documents meet their exacting standards.

Making sure divorce papers are error-free.

Easy Online Divorce’s website contains lots of free advice on how to complete your divorce documents, and it’s possible to complete them correctly and get your divorce for free. But it’s also easy to make a mistake, and one name typo, or an incorrect date, will scupper your plan of getting a free divorce.

If you’d like to try and get a divorce for free, read our step-by-step walkthrough here.

The next best thing to a free divorce

While we can’t provide you with a free divorce, we can give you complete peace of mind at a very manageable cost.

Fully Managed Divorce Service

If you don’t want to deal with any forms, websites, or courts and want the stress and hassle of divorce taken off your hands, we offer a ‘fully managed’ divorce service for £249.

We will draft and file your divorce documents with the courts and manage communication with the courts for you.

Still not sure?

Not sure what the best option is for you? Give us a call at 0204 530 8101 or book a free consultation with us here to find out how we can help you get divorced cheaply, quickly and with minimal stress.

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