This article aims to answer the question: “How much does a divorce cost in the UK?”
To answer this question, we have used insight from divorce solicitor, Lauren Howard, of Holmes and Hills, based in Braintree, Essex.
We also examine divorce costs from a financial perspective – trying to look beyond the initial divorce, and more into the long-term effects on your finances.
- What does the average divorce cost?
- Cost of a divorce lawyer
- Cost of a financial settlement or arrangements for children
- Financial Planning after a divorce
- About Lauren Howard
What does the average divorce cost?
Lauren Howard tells us: “Divorce is a very difficult time and can be very expensive. It is emotionally demanding and is life-changing. The emotional and financial costs can vary dramatically.”
According to the Money Advice Service, in 2018:
- Approximately 42 in 100 marriages now end in divorce.
- The average divorce cost in the UK stands at £14,561, in respect of legal fees and lifestyle costs.
The average divorce cost only tells you part of the story. According to Lauren, “When we think of the cost of divorce, we think about legal fees; however, there are also other costs involved. One party will often move out and if the family are supporting two homes instead of one, this can lead to considerable costs. If either party needs to buy a new home, then we need to consider the costs of sale and purchasing a new property.”
Cost of a divorce lawyer
What is the average cost of a divorce lawyer? It seems that the costs vary according to a number of criteria:
- The location and experience of the lawyer
- Whether you opt for fixed fees or hourly rates
- Whether the divorce is contested
- Whether you are the petitioner or the respondent
- Complicating factors in your particular case
Lauren says, “The costs vary depending on what lawyer you use and your particular case. What everyone agrees on, however, is that it is the arguing that costs the money. The more you argue, the more expensive your divorce will be.”
Petitioner divorce costs
You are the petitioner if you are the person seeking the divorce.
Again according to the Money Advice Service, typically you will pay £450 to £950 in solicitor’s fees (+VAT), and £550 as court fee to issue the petition. Therefore, the total cost should be between £1,100 and £1,700.
For an uncontested divorce, Holmes & Hills Solicitors charge a set fee of £600, plus VAT, plus court costs.
Respondent divorce costs
You are the respondent if your spouse is divorcing you.
Typically fees are lower for the respondent, and you will not need to pay the court fee to issue the petition. The range of solicitor’s fees are typically £250 to £600 (+VAT), making a likely fee of £300 to £720.
Reducing costs by doing the divorce yourself
You can save costs in the short term by not using a solicitor. You will still have to pay the court fee of £550 if you are the petitioner. Saving on legal fees may seem attractive, but you should also consider the risks of this approach:
If you use a solicitor, you are much more likely to get the divorce completed without unnecessary delays.
- Technical knowledge and wisdom
Your divorce lawyer will have completed rigorous training and has experience in navigating the often complex legal system.
- Getting it right first time
You should avoid unnecessary mistakes that are more likely if you take on your divorce yourself.
- Avoiding financial pitfalls
Your divorce is likely to lead to some sort of financial settlement (see below). Your lawyer works for you, and can advise you as to whether any offer from the other side is fair. Without legal advice, you may accidentally enter into an agreement that could later damage your financial interests.
Cost of a financial settlement or arrangements for children
When you divorce, you not only have to pay to cease the marriage, but may also have additional costs related to your separation of assets, as well as arrangements for any children.
This is one area that can make the case more complex, based on your individual circumstances, and whether both parties agree.
Your divorce solicitor can help you to come to an agreement, and then assist you to incorporate that agreement into a legally binding document. According to the Money Advice Service, costs may vary, depending on the circumstances:
Solicitor fees may be between £500 to £800 (+VAT), plus a court fee of £50. Therefore, the range of costs may be between £650 to £1,000.
If you have more complex assets, you may need more legal work. The total fee could be up to £1,500.
You may opt for mediation if you are unable to come to a straightforward agreement with your spouse. The cost of this may be around £1,200.
Divorce court fees
If you are unable to agree on how to settle your financial affairs, or arrangements for the
children, then you may have to go to court to settle matters. This involves a significant increase in costs. The fees you will pay depend on the additional work done by your solicitor, and this is likely to be performed on an hourly rate rather than a fixed fee, mainly because the work is more difficult to quantify.
Total costs for legal work and court fees typically range between £10,000 and £15,000 (but can be greater).
Lauren reminds us of the value of good legal advice in contested cases: “Your solicitor should be able to provide you with a very good idea as to what you can achieve at Court, and hopefully therefore, you can reach a settlement and avoid Court proceedings.”
The implication is that good legal advice will help you to save money by avoiding unnecessary court-related fees.
Legal aid is quite limited for divorces. According to Lauren, “Legal Aid is available if you are on a very low income for mediation. Legal Aid is also available in some other circumstances, if for example there are concerns in respect of domestic violence.”
Financial planning after a divorce
The divorce cost does not end with the actual proceedings, and the legal end of the marriage. You should also think carefully about how the divorce will affect your future financial security. We explore this issue more in our divorce financial planning case study.
Separation of finances
At the basic level, you will undergo a significant change to your financial situation. When you were married, you would have shared lifestyle costs such as bills, and housing. When you divorce, you will need to budget for a completely new situation. Both parties will need to pay for separate housing, and your bills will change.
Preparing a new budget
As a minimum you should prepare a budget to understand how your finances will change once you have divorced. Your finances will become separate before you divorce, but this is not the end of the matter.
You should also consider how any financial settlement may impact your short-term and long-term future. Be careful to consider whether you are giving up long-term stability in exchange for short-term needs.
The family home
It is very common for the family home to form part of any financial settlement when you divorce. This inevitably means that there will be an impact on your finances. You may have to pay for a mortgage on an ongoing basis, or instead may need to fund a new home if the family home is to be sold.
You may receive maintenance from your former spouse, particularly if you have children; alternatively, you may have to pay maintenance, if your income is greater than your former spouse.
Take account of the agreed schedule of payments: how much is due, and over what period.
You should consider what you will do when the maintenance stops. If you are receiving maintenance, will you be able to live comfortably? If you are paying maintenance, you may need to hold back certain financial decisions until a later date.
Pensions are often one of the largest assets in a divorce settlement. Often pensions are greater value for one spouse than the other. In this case, it is common to pass part of the pension assets from one spouse to the other. This needs careful attention from a financial adviser, as important decisions will need to be made. Read more about pension options on divorce.
How financial planning can help with divorce costs
If you are getting divorced, you may benefit from having a clear view on what your future financial situation could look like. You will want to know that your future is secure and that you will have enough.
A divorce can be a financially challenging time and you will have a number of questions relating to things like the value of your pensions and those of your spouse. You will also be interested to know how much money you will need to maintain your existing lifestyle.
About Dan Woodruff
Dan Woodruff is a certified financial planner and chartered wealth manager with over twenty years’ experience as a financial adviser.
Woodruff Financial Planning helps you to navigate and anticipate significant life changes. Our aim is to help you to ensure your money is managed wisely to give you the financial security that will fund the future and lifestyle that is important to you.
For more information, please visit Dan’s website.