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Doing it on the cheap: How to cut divorce costs

making divorce cheaper

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A divorce costs HOW MUCH??? How to cut divorce costs.

Separated couples desperate to move on can often find themselves waiting to begin divorce proceedings because they simply can’t afford the process. With average divorce cost in the UK now hitting a phenomenal £70,000 (including loss of assets, new accommodation, salary and legal fees, according to research by Seddons).  So you’d be forgiven for wanting to crawl away and live separate but still married lives.

But staying married means that you still have ties to each other and you’ll be unable to remarry (if this experience hasn’t put you off for life). You should also consider that your ex will retain certain legal rights that you may not want them to, for instance if you needed emergency medical treatment your ex, as next of kin, could end up having the final say.  If the worst happened they could get an inheritance from you as your husband or wife.  

How to save money in a divorce

There are a number of ways of saving yourself £70,000 plus but be prepared to pay for some advice, as money saved now might be a lot more to pay out in the future if you haven’t covered all the legal bases to protect you, your children and family properly.

Don’t rush into a cheap DIY divorce

There are a lot of websites advertising cheap divorces.  Whilst a comparison between £65.00 for a DIY divorce versus more than a thousand for a solicitor sounds like a no-brainer, caution should be advised. It’s one thing to represent yourself for a parking fine but when it comes to divorce we’re talking about dividing up peoples’ lives.  

If, and it’s a big if, you and your ex have no children and you have a simple solution for dividing up your assets AND you are sure that your ex has been honest in telling you what they have in the bank account, then a cheapie divorce could work for you.  But it’s still worth getting the paperwork checked over by a solicitor.  

If you do not have the right wording on the settlement, your ex could come back in ten years time and claim some more money from you.  Solicitors and the like are highly qualified and have spent at least 6 years in training. Even if they’re fresh out of training the chances are they work with a team who isn’t and can guide you through the minefield that is the divorce court system (often without you having to even be there).

Online divorce websites have come under fire for not warning couple who sign up that they should seek legal advice beforehand (this is in the terms and conditions in a lot of sites so it really does pay to read the small print).

In an article for The Guardian Linda Lee, the president of the Law Society, said: “An online managed divorce is certainly not suitable in cases where there is the existence of, or potential for, an imbalance of power between the parties, or if one side is being obstructive or withholding information. The cheapest option is not always the best option. A poorly managed divorce can add cost and time to the divorce process and a great deal of stress.”  If these sites themselves advise you to get legal advice before you buy one of their products; that’s advice worth following.

So don’t rule out the quickie online divorce, but bear in mind that you should still factor in some extra solicitors’ fees to get additional independent advice.  

Budget for divorce court fees.

You will also have to budget for court fees and certification.  At the time of writing it costs £550 to issue the divorce petition although discounts are available for those on low incomes or benefits.  

If you started your divorce after July 2013 you shouldn’t have to pay for your decree absolute unless your ex filed for divorce and hasn’t applied for it.  If you have finalised everything else and your ex is dragging their heels, you can pay £155 to go to a hearing to get your divorce finalised.

Other options for reducing the cost of divorce

If these words of warning have put you off the online divorce, there are several other options for reducing the costs. If your divorce is relatively straightforward you may be able to negotiate a flat solicitors’ fee, so that you are not paying for their time by the hour, which can be very costly.

What really hoiks up the bills though, is if you and your ex are fighting everything out in court, because you then end up paying for senior legal personnel costs and court fees.  This can ratchet up the bills at a frightening speed.  

Unfortunately in the most acrimonious divorces there may not be a way around this.  If your ex does not want to compromise you may be dragged into a legal battle you don’t want.  If you can’t afford this, see if you qualify for legal aid.  Although recent reforms have cut the amount of aid available and moved the goalposts on eligibility, a very quick google search comes up with a number of calculators to help you check if you qualify for help, or check here: legalaidcalculator.justice.gov.uk.

 If you’re not able to get a clear answer, a solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau will be able to check for you. In some circumstances Legal Aid can even pay the court costs as well as solicitors fees.  

Negotiating between each other out of court is always cheaper.

If both of you are on civil enough terms to be able to negotiate then there are other ways to save money which rely on both of you being in a room together.  Options to investigate include getting your two solicitors and yourselves in a room together and collaborating to agree to a settlement.

 An even cheaper option is for the two of you to go to mediation.  A trained mediator will help you thrash out all that needs to be agreed financially and regarding any arrangements for supporting and seeing your children.  Once a settlement has been agreed they send it to your solicitors to write up and send to the courts.  

You should still be aware that your divorce will still probably tip over the £1000 mark, depending on how much to-ing and fro-ing there is and the price of the solicitor you use, but this way you also have the reassurance of knowing all the bases have been covered.

More divorce advice here.

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