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Cost of a divorce in UK

Cost of a divorce in the uk

Table of Contents

There are several important factors that will impact the cost of your divorce. We cover all those elements in this article.

The average UK divorce costs a considerable £14,561 (MoneyHelper). However your cost may be significantly different to this based on your type of divorce, the complexity, and how much dispute there is between the parties. This article will guide you through the critical financial aspects of your divorce.

Types of divorce:

In the UK there are several different ways that couples can get a divorce depending on their specific situation. It’s important to know about these different types of divorce in the UK so you can choose the best option for your situation.

1. Uncontested Divorce:

This is the most common type of divorce. It’s when both partners agree to end their marriage and figure out important things like child custody and dividing their stuff. They fill out a joint divorce form, and if the court is cool with it, they get a ‘Conditional Order‘ (previously called the decree nisi). Then, after waiting a bit, they can get a ‘Final Order‘ (previously called the decree absolute), and that officially ends the marriage.

2. Contested Divorce:

This happens when couples can’t agree and need the court to step in. One person starts the divorce process, and the other person disagrees with the reasons for the divorce or how things should be settled. This type of divorce takes more time, is more emotional, and can be expensive because they have to go to court.

3. No Fault Divorce:

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020) ends completely the need for separating couples to apportion blame. Previously, one spouse was forced to make accusations about the other’s conduct to initiate the divorce. As such the vast majority of divorces are now ‘No-Fault Divorces.

With a no-fault divorce you just need to have lived apart for two years (or five years if one person doesn’t want the divorce). This is a very welcome and long overdue evolution of the divorce process in the UK.

5. Simplified Divorce:

In Scotland, there’s a simpler way to get a divorce if you meet certain requirements. If you and your spouse have lived apart for at least a year and have no young kids, you can apply for a simplified divorce. It’s less complicated and doesn’t involve going to court.

No matter which type of divorce you go for, there are some common steps. 

  • You have to fill out a form, give it to the other person, 
  • Share your financial information, 
  • Try to work out a settlement, 
  • Get the Conditional Order
  • And the Final Order to make it all official.

Uncontested divorce

Conditions to qualify for Uncontested divorce

To qualify for an uncontested divorce in the UK, certain conditions must be met.

1. Agreement:

Both spouses must agree to end the marriage and proceed with an uncontested divorce. This means they are on the same page regarding the decision to divorce and the terms of the divorce, including child custody, financial matters, and the division of assets and liabilities.

2. Separation:

The couple must have been separated for a specific period of time, typically at least two years. This period of separation demonstrates that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and serves as a basis for the uncontested divorce. If both parties agree, a shorter separation period of one year may be sufficient in certain cases.

3. Jurisdiction:

Either spouse must meet the jurisdictional requirements to file for divorce in the UK.

4. Grounds for Divorce:

Although uncontested divorces do not require assigning blame, there still needs to be a legal basis, known as the grounds for divorce. The most common ground is ‘unreasonable behavior,’ which includes various factors contributing to the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Other grounds may include adultery, desertion, or separation for the required period.

5. Agreement on Children and Finances:

Both spouses must come to an agreement on matters related to child custody, visitation rights, child support, and financial arrangements. This includes the fair division of assets, such as property, bank accounts, investments, and debts. Resolving these matters beforehand helps ensure a smooth uncontested divorce process.

To proceed with an uncontested divorce, it is recommended to consult with a qualified family lawyer who can guide you through the process, ensure all legal requirements are met, and help you draft the necessary documents, such as a joint divorce petition and a consent order outlining the agreed-upon terms.

Cost of an uncontested divorce

Here are some potential costs to consider for an uncontested divorce in the UK:

1. Court Fees:

Regardless of whether you hire a lawyer or handle the divorce yourself, there will be court fees associated with filing your divorce petition. As of 2023, the court fee for filing a divorce petition in England and Wales is £550. It’s important to note that court fees are subject to change, so it’s advisable to check the current rates at the time of filing.

2. Legal Fees (if applicable):

If you decide to hire a solicitor or lawyer to handle your uncontested divorce, you will incur legal fees. The cost will depend on the complexity of your case, the level of service provided, and the hourly rate or fixed fee structure of the chosen professional. Legal fees can vary significantly, they can range from £500 to £2,000 or more.

3. Additional Expenses:

There may be additional expenses throughout the divorce process, such as obtaining copies of marriage certificates or other relevant documents, attending mediation sessions (if required), and serving the divorce petition to your spouse. These costs can vary but generally range from £100 to £500.

It’s worth mentioning that if you choose to handle the uncontested divorce independently without legal representation, you can significantly reduce costs. However, it’s important to proceed with caution, especially when dealing with complex financial matters or child custody arrangements. Seeking legal advice, even on an unbundled or consultation basis, may be beneficial to ensure your rights and interests are protected.

Divorce OnlineFixed FeeHourly Rate
CostStarts £199£500 – 1000£1200 – 3000
Court Fees£550£550£550
Online Service
Total Cost (estimated)£749£1050 – £1550£1750 – £3550
This data is provided by divorce-online.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative law is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process available in the UK that aims to facilitate a more cooperative and amicable approach to resolving legal matters, particularly in family law cases. It provides a framework for couples to work together, with the assistance of specially trained professionals, to reach mutually acceptable agreements without going to court.

In collaborative law, both parties, along with their respective collaborative lawyers, commit to resolving their disputes through negotiation and open communication rather than litigation. The process typically involves the following key elements:

1. Voluntary Participation:

Collaborative law requires the voluntary participation of both parties. They must be willing to engage in good faith negotiations and commit to finding mutually agreeable solutions without resorting to court intervention.

2. Collaborative Lawyers:

Each spouse retains a collaborative lawyer who is specifically trained in the collaborative law process. These lawyers guide and support their clients throughout the collaborative process, ensuring they understand their rights, obligations, and the legal implications of any proposed agreements.

3. Four-Way Meetings:

Collaborative law encourages face-to-face meetings between both parties and their lawyers. These meetings, known as four-way meetings, provide an opportunity for open discussions, the exchange of information, and negotiations in a respectful and constructive manner.

4. Expert Support:

If needed, additional professionals may be involved in the collaborative process to provide expert guidance on specific issues. These professionals could include financial advisors, family consultants, child specialists, or other relevant experts who can contribute to the resolution of the dispute.

5. No Court Proceedings:

One of the fundamental principles of collaborative law is that the parties and their lawyers commit to resolving their disputes outside of court. This means that if the collaborative process breaks down, and one or both parties decide to pursue litigation, the collaborative lawyers are disqualified from representing them in court. This serves as an incentive for all parties to stay committed to the collaborative process.

It’s important to note that collaborative law may not be suitable for every situation. Cases involving domestic violence, power imbalances, or where one party is uncooperative may require a different approach. It’s advisable to consult with a collaborative lawyer or family law professional to assess whether collaborative law is a viable option for your specific circumstances.

Cost of a DIY divorce

The cost of a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) divorce in the UK typically involves court fees and any additional expenses you may incur while handling the process independently. Here are the main costs to consider:

1. Court Fees:

The court fee for filing a divorce petition in England and Wales, as of 2023, is £550. This fee is payable to the court and is a standard cost associated with initiating the divorce process.

2. Copies of Documents:

You may need to obtain copies of your marriage certificate, as well as any other relevant documents required for the divorce proceedings. The cost for obtaining copies can vary depending on where you request them from, but it is typically around £10 to £15 per copy.

3. Additional Expenses:

Other expenses may include costs for postage, printing and copying documents, obtaining legal advice on specific matters (if desired), and potentially attending mediation sessions, if applicable. These costs can vary based on your specific circumstances and choices, but they are generally relatively minor.

It’s important to note that handling a DIY divorce means taking on the responsibility of navigating the legal process yourself, which may require a good understanding of the procedures and paperwork involved. While it can be a cost-effective option, it’s crucial to ensure that you are fully informed about your legal rights and obligations, particularly regarding child custody, financial matters, and the division of assets. If you have any uncertainties or concerns, consulting with a family lawyer or seeking legal advice on an unbundled or consultation basis can provide valuable guidance and ensure you make informed decisions.

Solicitor Farhana Shahzady talks about legal costs in the UK. Clip extracted from live event delivered from DivorceClub.com. Watch edited recording here.

Contested Divorce

Solicitor fees for contested divorce

Solicitor fees for a contested divorce in the UK can vary widely depending on factors such as the complexity of the case, the location of the solicitor, and their experience and reputation. In general, the fees for a contested divorce can range from a few thousand pounds to tens of thousands of pounds.

Solicitors typically charge an hourly rate usually ranging from around £150 to £500 or more.

Additional costs may include case preparation and document drafting fees, court representation fees for attending hearings, expert witness fees, investigation costs, and administrative expenses for tasks such as photocopying and filing documents.

To manage costs effectively, it is important to have open and transparent communication with your solicitor from the outset. Discuss the fee structure, obtain a clear estimate of fees, and inquire about any additional expenses that may arise during the process.

Cost of a contested divorce

A contested divorce involves disputes and disagreements between the parties, which often require court intervention to resolve. Here are some factors that can impact the cost:

1. Solicitor Fees:

Solicitor fees for a contested divorce can vary based on the complexity of the case, the experience of the solicitor, and the amount of time and effort required. Fees may range from a few thousand pounds to tens of thousands of pounds.

2. Court Fees:

Court fees are incurred when filing a divorce petition and attending court hearings during the contested divorce process. As of 2023, the court fee for filing a divorce petition in England and Wales is £550. Additional fees may apply for specific court applications or hearings.

3. Expert Witnesses:

In complex contested divorces, expert witnesses, such as financial or child custody specialists, may be required. Their fees can vary depending on their expertise and the extent of their involvement in the case.

4. Mediation or Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Costs:

If parties choose to engage in mediation or other ADR methods to try to resolve their disputes outside of court, there may be additional costs associated with those processes.

5. Additional Expenses:

Additional expenses may include document preparation, serving legal documents to the other party, obtaining evidence, and other administrative costs related to the divorce proceedings.

The total expenses can range from several thousand pounds to tens of thousands of pounds or more, depending on the specific circumstances of the case.

Divorce Finances

Mandatory fees

In the UK, there are two mandatory fees for divorce:

  1. Court Fee for Filing a Divorce Petition: The current fee is £550.
  1. Final Order fee is £93.

These fees are separate from other costs like legal representation or mediation. If you face financial hardship, fee waivers or reductions may be available. Stay aware of the fees and deadlines throughout the process.

Who pays the court fees

The party initiating the divorce process (known as the petitioner) is responsible for paying the court fees. The petitioner is typically the one who files the divorce petition and initiates the legal proceedings. However, it’s worth noting that parties involved in the divorce can negotiate and come to their own agreement on how to divide the costs, including court fees, as part of their overall settlement arrangements.

Cost of divorce mediation

Mediators typically charge an hourly rate ranging from £100 to £300 or more. It’s recommended to consult directly with mediators to discuss fees and billing structures. Divorce mediation is often a cost-effective alternative to litigation.

Cost of divorce arbitration

Arbitrators charge fees based on an hourly rate or fixed fee. Additional costs may include legal representation and administrative expenses. The overall cost depends on the specific case. Consult directly with arbitrators to discuss fees and consider the benefits of a more streamlined process compared to court proceedings.

How to keep the cost of a divorce down

  1. Maintain open communication and cooperation with your spouse.
  2. Opt for an uncontested divorce if possible.
  3. Consider mediation or alternative dispute resolution (ADR) instead of litigation.
  4. Clearly communicate with your solicitor and understand their fees.
  5. Be prepared and organized with necessary documentation.
  6. Consider limited scope representation for specific tasks.
  7. Explore online resources and self-help options.

These strategies can help reduce legal expenses and streamline the divorce process.

Can I get help with costs

There are options available to receive help with divorce costs. You can inquire about fee waivers or reductions for court fees based on financial hardship. Legal aid may be available for those who meet specific criteria, and pro bono services can be sought from certain law firms or organizations. Funding options may exist for mediation services as well. Seek advice from legal professionals or organizations specializing in divorce to explore available assistance.

Legal aid

To qualify for legal aid during a divorce in the UK, you must meet specific financial eligibility criteria and demonstrate that your case meets the merits test. Financial eligibility considers income, savings, and assets. The merits test assesses factors such as child custody disputes or domestic abuse. Certain cases may be excluded from legal aid. Consult a legal aid agency or a family law solicitor for accurate and up-to-date information on eligibility and the application process.

Divorce Cost Conclusion

Your actual costs will vary significantly depending on your individual circumstances, the level of cooperation between the parties, and the need for any additional professional services. The main costs involved in a divorce in the UK include;

  • solicitor fees
  • court fees
  • mediation or alternative dispute resolution costs
  • expert witness fees
  • and additional expenses such as document copies or asset valuations.

It’s recommended to consult with a solicitor or legal professional to obtain a more accurate estimate of the costs involved in your specific situation.


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