On 6th April 2022, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (DDSA) brought substantial changes to the divorce process in England and Wales. In fact, it was the biggest reform of divorce law in fifty years.
The DDSA aims to reduce conflict between couples legally ending a marriage or civil partnership, as under the act there is no longer a requirement to assign blame, removing the need for evidence of adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour.
These new divorce laws mean that generally speaking, getting divorced could now be more straightforward and less costly as the amount of work required by a solicitor may be reduced.
However, solicitors can and do still play an important role in even the simplest divorce cases, from making the divorce application on the behalf of the petitioner, to ensuring the entire process runs as smoothly as possible from start to finish and nothing is missed.
If you or your partner have a significant amount of wealth, the process can become much more complex. An experienced solicitor can be especially valuable in these scenarios in order to help clients navigate the many complexities the division and allocation of significant assets brings, including children’s ongoing education costs, maintenance agreements, property portfolios, investment assets, trust interests, business assets and other expenses.
Different cost scenarios
Whatever your financial situation, there are some fixed and some variable costs involved in getting a divorce. The total overall cost can depend on a large number of factors.
Regardless of how you decide to deal with your divorce, there will at least be a mandatory court-filing fee to pay. There will also be solicitors’ fees and these fees will vary depending on the complexity of your financial affairs and the level of amicability between ex-spouses.
The costs associated with divorce in the UK fall into a few different categories.
Mandatory court filing fees
The mandatory court-filing fee is £593 in England and Wales. This is the fee you pay the court to process your divorce application. This cost also covers your Final Order (formerly known as Decree Absolute) application.
Prior to the DDSA, divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behavior or adultery, would usually result in the court stating that the respondent must reimburse the applicant for he court fee. Under DDSA the court fee is paid by the spouse filing for divorce (the applicant). Whether you are making a sole application or a joint application for divorce, if you wish to share the Court fee, you should obtain your spouse’s half share in advance of issuing the application.
This court fee does not include fees for resolving child arrangements or finance issues.
There are also legal fees associated with instructing a divorce solicitor. These are costed on an individual basis and will depend on a number of factors, including whether the solicitor works on a fixed-fee or hourly rate basis.
Fixed fee packages:
Many firms offer fixed fee divorce packages.
For example, our fixed fee divorce package, whether you are the applicant or respondent, for all work required for the conclusion of an undefended divorce is £300 plus VAT. This cost includes applying for the divorce, applying for the Conditional Order (formerly known as the Decree Nisi) and applying for the Final Order (formerly known as the Decree Absolute).
If the petition is defended (which is extremely rare since DDSA) or needs to be amended once it is issued, if any advice or action is required relating to property, finances and children or if the other party cannot be located or fails to respond, additional fees will likely be charged. A more bespoke quote relevant to individual circumstances will then be needed to cover this additional work.
Doing it yourself:
Rather than instructing a lawyer to act on your behalf, you can act ‘in person’, which essentially means you file for divorce online yourself and do the subsequent paperwork and administration. If you decide to follow this path but would like some support from a family lawyer to ensure forms are filled in correctly and to answer any technical queries, you may choose to opt for our support and advice package.
In this scenario, you will pay for the time of the solicitor on an hour-by-hour basis for advice when you need it. Rates vary depending on seniority and experience, and you can expect to pay between £160 and £270 plus VAT per hour. This will include reading and replying to emails, phone calls and sending out letters. If you choose this method, you should use your solicitor to handle the matters that are really important to move things forwards, legal advice and the legal paperwork.
If ex-spouses can agree relatively quickly on major issues like financial support, child arrangements (formerly known as Contact and Residence) and splitting the family home & finances, it will undoubtedly help keep the cost of divorce lower by avoiding additional legal costs.
However, if there are disagreements or conflicting requests from two divorcing parties, costs can quickly add up. These include:
Applying to court:
If you need to apply to court for a financial order or child arrangements order you will need to pay more court fees. The application for a financial order is £275 and an application for a child arrangements order is £232. You will probably also need to have conducted a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting).
Remember that the child arrangements and financial arrangements are separate areas of law and will not be dealt with at the same time in the court.
You may need a barrister if you are going to court for a hearing in relation to your child arrangements or finances. A barrister will set their own fees but may agree a fixed rate for you. However, depending on experience, your barrister may charge between £1,000 to £5,000 per day.
With divorces of any value, dividing property and other assets can be a tricky issue. In high net worth divorces, however, the valuation and division agreements can get especially complicated and frustrating.
In the case of long-standing marriages, property may be divided between the divorcing parties, even if only one individual contributed towards their purchase. This is where experienced divorce solicitors can really help you protect what you are entitled to.
In high net worth cases, property might be spread over several countries, and take the form of holiday homes, overseas investments, or managed rental properties so the level of consideration needed here is clear.
If spouses cannot agree on the value of a property, they may need to instruct a surveyor to give an independent valuation which can cost upwards of £500 plus VAT per property.
If the valuation of a Company cannot be agreed upon, you may need to instruct a single joint expert accountant. They are likely to charge in the region of £5,000 plus VAT.
Cash and the content of bank accounts or equity funds will often be split and shared in the same way regardless of the value level of the divorce. Talking to an experienced solicitor will help you navigate considerations such as whether an asset should be excluded from a settlement, such as those assets gained or owned before marriage.
In most divorces, assets such as jewelry, cars, clothing and accessories may not be worth much, but typically hold much more significance in high net worth divorces and therefore need careful thought.
Pensions too, can be a bit of a minefield. Offsetting, pension sharing or pension attachment orders are all options, and you’ll need sound advice and support from your solicitor to help agree which option is best for you, especially in high net worth situations. It can be the case that a Pension Actuary needs appointing and this can cost between £1000 to £3000 plus VAT depending on the number and type of pensions involved.
What’s more, if you are moving a pension fund to your spouse as part of a divorce, there may be a charge from both the old and new pension company.
If ex-spouses cannot agree on the financial agreement and/or on the arrangements for their children when they divorce, then they may have to use family mediation.
According to the Family Mediation Council, the average cost of mediation in the UK is £140 per person per hour. Costs can vary and there will usually be a charge for the paperwork you need at the end of the mediation process, laying out your agreement.
Mediate UK states that the ‘average length of time for mediation is 2-3 sessions for child arrangements and 2-3 sessions for finances.’
If your divorce results in selling, buying or changing the deeds on a property, you will likely have to pay a solicitor or conveyancer to do this for you. Your divorce solicitor will not usually handle this, but at Hegarty Solicitors our team of experienced conveyancers can guide you through this process. Depending on the nature of the transaction you can expect to pay between £300 to £1500 plus VAT for conveyancing fees. Our online conveyancing calculator can tell you exactly how much your fees will be. If you are selling or buying a new home following a divorce, let’s not forget the usual fees associated with estate agents, removal companies and even storage fees too.
When you divorce, you might want to consider updating your will, especially if you have a high net worth. At Hegarty Solicitors, our Wills cost from £350 plus VAT for a straightforward standard single will.
Finally, a divorce might be a good time to get some financial advice as your finances may have changed significantly during this time. Financial advisors will charge for their services, so this is another cost to consider.
Sunlife recommends, ‘Even if your divorce is amicable, it can be worth investing some additional money in getting a “clean break” agreement drawn up. This means that what you agree during your settlement is final, and that neither party can come back and challenge the settlement in the courts in later years. The cost of getting this agreement drawn up can cost an extra £500-£1,000 in legal fees.’
It’s clear, that there is no one fixed cost for a divorce. The level of amicability or animosity between the ex-spouses and the amount or value of financial assets will often determine the level of expenditure.
Regardless of how much a divorce costs, the breakdown of a marriage can be an incredibly difficult time and you will want to be confident you are getting the best possible guidance. At Hegarty, our family law specialists will guide you through the divorce process and support you with sound advice built on years of experience. If you require practical, helpful advice and support regarding divorce, please contact us to make an appointment with our family law experts.