What are the fees in a divorce?
Regardless of how you choose to file for divorce, be it via an online divorce service, through a local solicitor, or you do it yourself, there is a court fee to pay.
If you just want to get divorced and not secure finances afterwards by obtaining a consent order that is the only fee that will be payable.
If you want to obtain a legally binding financial order there is an additional court fee to pay, which is outlined below;
- £550 is the court fee to apply for a divorce
- £50 is the court fee to apply for a consent order
If you are on a low-income or receive certain benefits you may be eligible for a court fee remission.
The petitioner always pays the divorce fees
Initially, the person filing for the divorce (known as the Petitioner) will always pay the divorce filing fee.
The court fees are paid to the court for the divorce process.
The fee to file for divorce in England and Wales is currently £550 (December 2019).
This fee to file for divorce now includes your entire divorce process with no extra or separate payments required.
If the petitioner is on a low income they may get help with paying this fee, known as court fee remission.
The petitioner can ask for the respondent to pay their costs in a fault based divorce, or in a 2 year separation case if they both agree.
Divorce fees in fault based divorces
In cases where the respondent does not agree, there will be a costs hearing after the decree nisi has been pronounced.
At this point the respondent will have an opportunity to argue why they should not pay the costs.
In most cases this will be on the basis that you cannot afford to pay the divorce fees.
A financial assessment will take place and the judge will then decide how much the respondent should pay, they can also order instalments.
Divorce fees can also include any fees incurred by solicitors for the petitioner and they will also be assessed at any costs hearing as to whether they are reasonable or not.
The judge has guidelines as to what a reasonable fee is, depending on the area you live in and the locality of the court.
Should I claim for the divorce fees?
In most cases we would advise the petitioner to not claim costs, unless they are agreed. This is because the petitioner will usually want the divorce to go through quickly and uninterrupted.
Claiming for fees may cause the respondent to withdraw co-operation.
A claim for costs will usually cause the Respondent to withdraw their consent and delay the issue of the final decree.
So is it really worth not getting your divorce because you have chosen to claim £550 in divorce fees?
When Can the Petitioner Claim for Costs?
Whether the Petitioner can apply for costs will partly depend on which reason, or ‘fact for divorce’ has been relied upon in the divorce petition. This is set out as follows:
- Adultery – The petitioner does have the right to seek a claim for costs against the respondent
- Unreasonable behaviour – The petitioner does have the right to seek a claim for costs against the respondent
- Desertion – The petitioner does have the right to seek a claim for costs against the respondent
- Two years’ separation with consent – The Court may not grant an Order for costs as no fault is being attributed to the respondent
- Five years’ separation – The Court may not grant an Order for costs as no fault is being attributed to the respondent
Normally a claim for costs will only be successful in the event of a breakdown of the marriage as a result of one of the fault-based reasons; namely adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion. If the marriage has broken down because of the couple’s separation, where no blame is being attributed, the Petitioner will not normally be able to claim costs.
How to Claim for Divorce Costs
In the event the Petitioner does wish to apply for costs against the Respondent, then best practice is to reach an agreement with the Respondent on costs before the divorce petition is issued. This can reduce the likelihood of the respondent challenging the divorce over the issue of costs, and it is particularly useful in cases of adultery or two years’ separation with consent, as the Respondent may not cooperate in providing documents or admissions if disputes arise over costs.
It is therefore advisable to agree divorce costs with the respondent from the outset, and agree this in writing, before issuing the divorce petition. If costs can be agreed at the outset, then at Decree Nisi stage a ‘Costs Order’ can be made by the Court, allowing costs to be dealt with on an amicable basis without the need for further Court hearings or disputes.
If costs cannot be agreed but the Petitioner decides to submit the divorce petition nonetheless, the Court may be called upon to deal with any dispute over costs. In this situation, both people may need to attend a hearing for the Court to determine the issue.
The Court will consider if the costs claimed are reasonable, bearing in mind the experience of the representing Solicitor, their hourly rate and the amount of work undertaken. If both of the people getting divorced are represented by Solicitors at a costs hearing, then those costs can also be included (thus increasing the costs further).
The Court has a wide range of powers and discretion in relation to awarding costs and will not only look at the Solicitors’ fees, but also the conduct of both people in deciding whether costs should be awarded and at what level.
Once the Court has granted a Costs Order, the Respondent is under a legal obligation to pay these. Failure to do so could result in enforcement action being taken, which can increase the costs further. The danger, of course, is that the amount of legal work in dealing with contested costs can in fact outweigh the cost of the divorce itself. It is therefore important to ensure that the benefits outweigh the costs and, wherever possible, it is strongly advised to try and reach an agreement on costs before issuing divorce proceedings.
For advice on paying divorce fees or finding out how much you are expected to pay for your divorce, call us on 01207654365 or email us today.
We can save you over £1,000 on the cost of your divorce when compared to a high-street solicitor.
Speak to us today.