Legal Fees on Divorce: who pays?

The unwritten starting point in divorce proceedings is that the person at fault for the breakdown of the marriage should pay the other party’s costs.

This includes the Court fee (presently £550). It also includes any Solicitors fees which have been incurred in connection with the divorce.

Before you apply for a divorce on this basis, however, a number of practical considerations need to be taken into account.

Starting the Divorce Proceedings

The Court will not make a costs order until it is satisfied that you are entitled to a divorce. This is called the Decree Nisi stage. It is therefore highly likely that you will need to pay the Court fee (currently £550) in the first instance and then seek to recover this from your husband/wife later on within the divorce proceedings. 

Securing a Quick and Amicable Divorce

You may find that your husband/wife is reluctant to accept that they were at fault for your divorce, especially if it will mean that they will be responsible for your costs. In turn, this could slow down the divorce proceedings and increase the costs that you will need to pay in the first instance. Quite often the most sensible and pragmatic way forward is therefore offer to share the costs of the divorce provided the other party cooperates.

The cost of divorce process includes the divorce itself, the financial settlement (the agreement of how assets of the marriage are divided and whether maintenance payments should be paid by one to the other) and childrens’ arrangements. If you cannot agree these matters yourself and use lawyer at each stage of the proceedings it could cost each of you £5,000 or more.

If you need lawyers you may agree they help you with only part of the process or simply pay them to review any paperwork you have prepared.

Here we explains how to lower the cost of your divorce and how costs are divided between the parties.

If you can, you should avoid court

Regardless of the reason for going to court, regardless of what you may think of the strength of your argument, going to court is expensive and stressful and the outcome for you will always be uncertain.

In every aspect of family law, the court has far greater discretion than in most other areas of law. This means you may find that something you think you had already agreed on before the hearing is varied by the judge.

On top of the judgment, there may be the legal costs of using your solicitors to pay as well. So, where possible, you should settle your disagreements out of court.

Who pays the costs in court proceedings?

Despite prevailing opinion, it really does matter who initiates divorce proceedings. If you are the one who is being divorced (the “respondent”), the Court might order you to pay the legal fees of both sides. 

How to split legal fees

If the divorce is agreed upon by both parties, it is possible to agree to halve the legal fees between the two of you.

You should always try and agree some form of separation agreement which set out that on divorce all fees are shared, or better that you do it yourselves.

We can provide for £50 a separation agreement which will comprehensively cover all the areas you need to consider if you and your husband/wife/ partner have decided to go your own separate ways.

By agreeing now how you will divide your property and personal possessions, cash and savings in joint bank accounts and other assets, you will have much more certainty about the future and be able to move on faster in your own life.

The document would be suitable if you are married or in a civil partnership, and also if you have been living together unmarried and have decided to separate.

As well as covering the division of jointly owned property, personal possessions, cash and investments, you can record your agreement in relation to periodic payments during separation, living arrangements and care of children.

It is the case of course, that the person who petitions for the divorce will not seek a court order for costs against his or her spouse, but is that simply a chance worth taking. 

Cutting costs

The largest cost is usually your solicitor. Ask yourself whether you really need one.

If the divorce is undefended – that is, you both agree – there is really little point using a solicitor for the whole process as long as you agree on the division of your finances too.

Using a lawyer does not make the divorce any more legal.

Arrangements for children must be approved by the court, but the procedure is simple if you both agree.

Some situations in which you might be able to forego the services of a solicitor are:

  • if you and your partner agree on the divorce and on the division of property

  • if you have proper grounds for the divorce

  • if both of you do not have substantial assets

  • if you are not challenging child maintenance

  • if your children are of legal age and not minors

However, if you still need financial assistance from your partner after the divorce, it may be better to get the help of a lawyer to take care of the monthly payments and help make the payments binding.

If you need help with a divorce or financial matters arising from the divorce please call John on 01207654365

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