What are the costs involved in divorce and what are my options?
After the children, the next big thing couples think about is how much their divorce is going to cost. Expensive divorces are widely reported in the media and we’ve all heard horror stories about this. However, in truth, in many cases, it is possible to divorce cheaply.
How much a divorce costs depends on 3 factors:
1. Your ability to co-operate with each other
The first thing you have to consider is how much cooperation you expect there to be. Is your separation agreed and is it amicable? Or is it the divorce likely to be contested (disputed) and your relationship hostile to some extent? The cost of your divorce can often be equated with the amount of hostility and disagreement there is.
2. The complexity of your finances and family affairs
Having a lot of assets at stake tends to increase the potential for conflict, which then drives up the cost of the divorce. Similarly, having children adds more complexity and potential for friction.
3. The service you decide to use to get your divorce
This has a significant impact on the overall cost of your divorce. You have 3 choices:
- Manage the divorce by yourself (DIY divorce)
- Divorce using an online divorce service
- Hire the services of an expensive high-street solicitor
While you can’t do much about how complex your financial and family affairs are, you can influence the co-ordination between you and your spouse and decide on the best service for you.
Read on to find out more about the pros and cons of DIY divorce, online divorce services, and high-street solicitors. We will also explain how to manage conflict. Choosing the right service and decreasing friction will help to drastically reduce costs.
The Cost of Divorce
Regardless of which service you use, you must pay a mandatory court fee, (currently £593). This isn’t a requirement to attend court, it just pays for the court to process your application.
So even if you handle the entire divorce yourself, you are still required to pay this court fee. (You may be 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 divorce, but it’s only viable if you both 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 One word of caution – 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 incurs further charges of £95 per amendment, so you could end up paying more than you hoped.
Provided you are patient and have time to spare, this is your cheapest option. The cost of filing for divorce is £0. Your only cost is the £593 court fee.
Online Divorce Services
Fully Managed Divorce Services
If you don’t want to deal with any documents or courts at all, and would like all of the stress and hassle of divorce taken off your hands, Easy Online Divorce offer a ‘fully managed’ divorce service. We draft and file all the divorce documentation with the courts, and fully manage communications between the court, your spouse, and any opposing solicitors.
If your spouse agrees to divorcing you or if you have been separated over five years, online divorce services are your best option. Our ‘fully managed’ package gives exactly the same (and often better) service than a high-street solicitor provides, but at a significant fraction of the cost.
Online divorce services are usually quicker, because the central aim is for their clients to divorce efficiently. In contrast, solicitors charge by the hour, with each query and change counted on the clock and make a significant amount of money from managing 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:
Standard Managed Divorce service: £249 + £593 in court fees = £842
If your divorce is contested or highly complicated, you will need to use a solicitor. For example if you cannot, under any circumstances, reach an agreement on the divorce, the assets division, or the care of your dependent children.
For around £850 some solicitors offer fixed-price packages, however, this is only for uncontested divorces. In this case you are better off using the more cost-effective online divorce services.
A contested divorce will incur solicitors’ hourly rates. A partner or legal director of a large corporate solicitors charge +£400 per hour. (Even a trainee bills more than £100 per hour.) This is where costs begin to spiral out of control, especially when complex negotiation between the parties is required.
If it’s impossible for a couple to reach an agreement, they have to go to court and then costs run into the thousands just for a single court hearing.
Summary of costs – High Street Solicitors:
Budget: £850 + £593 in court fees = £1443
Average: £1200 + £593 in court fees = £1793
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 manageable?
Take comfort in the fact that 99% of divorces completed in England & Wales are uncontested – but only eventually. Too much money is still wasted by divorcing couples unnecessarily before coming to an agreement. Therefore it makes so much sense (as you’re likely to eventually have an uncontested divorce anyway), to work on reaching an agreement with your spouse early on.
Of course, this is not easy – you might not even want to speak to your spouse. However, doesn’t this seem like a small price to pay compared to wasting thousands of pounds on the cost of a divorce? Money that could always 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 £593. 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 have a low income or are on certain benefits, and have very little savings, you may get your court fee reduced, often to zero.
To be eligible, you must have under £3,000 in savings and investments (if you’re under the age of 61) or under £16,000 savings if you are over 61.
- 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 the above benefits, you can still get the fee waivered if you earn less than £1,085 a month (before tax) if you’re single, or under £1,245 if you have a partner.
You can also add £245 on top of that for each child you have. So, for eg if you have a partner and two children, you must earn less than £1,735 to be eligible for the ‘help with fees’ scheme.
For a partial reduction, if you meet the other conditions, you could earn up to £2,190 per month (before tax).
Many people feel trapped in a marriage partly because they think they can’t afford a divorce – we speak to people daily who didn’t realise they don’t have to pay court fees.