The Different Ways to Divorce – and How Much They Cost
After children, the next thing couples think about is how much the divorce is going to cost. We’ve all seen and heard the horror stories of expensive divorces. But the truth is, in the majority of cases, it is possible to divorce cheaply.
How much a divorce costs depends on three factors:
1. Ability to cooperate
The first thing you have to consider is how much cooperation you expect there to be between you and your spouse. Is your separation amicable and agreed? Or is it contested (disputed) and the relationship hostile? The more hostility and disagreement, the more expensive the divorce will be.
2. Complexity of financial and family affairs
When lots of assets are at stake, it tends to increase conflict, which drives up the cost of the divorce. Similarly, having children—especially school age—can add further complexity.
3. The service you use to get a divorce
The service you use to get a divorce has a significant impact on the overall cost. You have three choices:
- Manage the divorce yourself (DIY)
- Use an online divorce service
- Hire the services of an expensive high-street solicitor
While you can’t do much about the complexity of your financial and family affairs, you can influence the level of cooperation between you and your spouse and decide on the best service for your situation.
This chapter will explain the pros and cons of DIY, online divorce services, and high-street solicitors. We will also explain how you can manage conflict. Both of these factors will help you reduce the cost of your divorce.
The Cost of Divorce
Regardless of how you decide to deal with your divorce, you have to pay a mandatory court fee, which is currently £550. This doesn’t mean you have to attend court. This fee merely pays for the court’s staff to process your divorce.
This means that even if you decide to handle the entire divorce process yourself, you will still be required to pay the court fee, unless you are eligible for the ‘help with fees’ scheme. See below for more information on this.
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Divorce
DIY is the cheapest way to get a divorce, but it’s only viable if you and your spouse agree to the divorce and the reasons why you’re getting one.
You can apply for a divorce through the government website or download the documents here and do it by post.
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. Mistakes result in delays, and correcting applications can incur further charges.
Provided you are patient and have time to spare, this is your cheapest option. The cost of filing for divorce is zero. The only cost would be the £550 court fee.
Online Divorce Services
DIY Divorce Services
If you don’t have the time or willingness to go down the DIY route, the next cheapest option is to use an online divorce service. Easy Online Divorce offer transparent, fixed-price services for uncontested divorces, and there are options for every budget.
The most basic services assist you in doing it yourself by providing all of the documents, along with a guide on how to complete them and the rest of the divorce process. For those who want to remove the stress of filling in court forms and the worry of making mistakes, Easy Online Divorce also have a service where you only need to fill in a simple questionnaire and you will get back all of the official documents, drafted and ready for the courts.
With both services, you still file your own divorce petition, but Easy Online Divorce give you support along the way to make sure you’re doing everything correctly.
Fully Managed Divorce Services
However, if you don’t want to deal with any forms, websites, or courts at all, and want all of the stress and hassle of divorce taken off your hands, Easy Online Divorce also offer ‘fully managed’ divorce services. They draft and file all the divorce documents with the courts, and manage communication between the court, your spouse, and any opposing solicitors.
If your spouse agrees to a divorce or if you’ve been separated for more than five years, online divorce services are your best option. The ‘fully managed’ package gives the same (and often better) service than a high-street solicitor would provide, but at a fraction of the cost.
And often online divorce services are quicker, because the central aim of their business is for their clients to divorce. In contrast, solicitors charge by the hour and make a significant amount of money from conflict between divorcing couples.
Easy Online Divorce offers affordable and flexible packages to suit a range of budgets. We summarise the cost of our services below. For the Fully Managed Divorce service, we also offer an option to spread the cost over three months, the only UK provider to do this.
Summary of costs – Easy Online Divorce:
Fully Managed Divorce service: £169 + £550 in court fees = £719
Completed & Verified service: £49 + £550 in court fees = £599
DIY Assist service: £29 + £550 in court fees = £579
If your divorce is contested or highly complicated, it is difficult to avoid using a solicitor. Examples of this would be situations where you cannot, under any circumstances, reach an agreement on the divorce, the division of assets, or the care of dependent children.
Some solicitors offer fixed-price packages, usually starting at around £700 + VAT, but this is only for uncontested divorces where you are better off using more cost-effective online divorce services. Anything more difficult will incur solicitors’ hourly rates.
A partner or legal director of a large corporate firm charges over £400 an hour. Even a trainee bills more than £100 an hour. This is where the cost of divorce starts to spiral out of control, especially when complex negotiation between the parties is required. If a couple cannot reach an agreement by themselves, they have to go to court. Then the costs run into the thousands just for a single court hearing.
Summary of costs – High Street Solicitors:
Budget: £700 + £550 in court fees = £1250
Average: £1200 + £550 in court fees = £1750
With court appearance (resolved quickly): £10,000–£15,000
Fully contested hearing in court: £25,000 and over
What can you do to keep the cost of your divorce low?
Take comfort in the fact that 99% of divorces in England and Wales are uncontested, but only eventually. A lot of money is still wasted by divorcing couples unnecessarily. This raises the question: If you’re likely to eventually have an uncontested divorce anyway, doesn’t it make sense to work on reaching an agreement with your spouse early on?
Of course, this isn’t easy. You might not even want to speak to your spouse. But isn’t this a small price to pay compared to wasting thousands of pounds on the cost of a divorce? Money that, let’s face it, could be put to better use elsewhere.
Getting help with court fees
Whichever path you choose for your divorce, there is a mandatory court fee of £550. But what many people don’t realise is that, if you are eligible, it’s possible to get help through the ‘help with fees’ scheme. If you’re on certain benefits or a low income, and have 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 on 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 £1,085 a month before tax if you’re single, or less than £1,245 if you have a partner.
You also have an extra allowance of £245 on top of that for each child you have. For example, if you have a partner and two children, you must earn less than £1,735 to be eligible for the ‘help with fees’ scheme.
However, provided the other conditions are met, you could still earn up to £2,190 a month before tax and 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.