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How much does a divorce cost?

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After exploring the average cost of a wedding it seems pessimistic to be talking about divorce. However, the reality is 42% of marriages now end in divorce, so it’s worth knowing that the average cost of a divorce in the UK stands at £14,561 in legal fees and lifestyle costs.

Although, if there’s property involved then the costs significantly increase. If a couple needs to move house as a result of the divorce, then a report by Aviva reveals an average spend of around £35,000 on rent and if either party needs to buy a new property, then it’s an average of £144,600 on a new house.

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But what about the average costs of going to court, who pays the fees and if there’s any child maintenance costs afterwards?

Average cost of a divorce lawyer

There is no one definitive answer to how much a divorce lawyer/solicitor will charge, as it’s very much on a case by case basis and whether you go for a fixed fee or a by the hour solicitor.

That being said, if a divorce is uncontested, so you both agree to it, then fees are far lower than if a financial settlement is thrown into the mix, or if things get more complicated and it’s taken to court.

The average cost of an uncontested divorce

Did you know 99% of divorce cases in England and Wales are uncontested, according to Co-op legal services.

  • If you are the one seeking the divorce then you are the petitioner and will pay £450 to £950 in solicitor’s fees and £550 in a divorce centre fee – making a total of £1,000 to £1,500.

  • If you are the other spouse then you’re the respondent. You will not need to pay a divorce centre fee and your solicitor’s fees should be lower. Making your total £240 to £600

Whether you do it yourself and apply for divorce by downloading the forms online, or you instruct the help of a solicitor, that £550 fee can’t be avoided and needs to be paid by the petitioner. That is unless you are eligible for financial help because you are on a low income or receive benefits.

Check out if you're eligible for legal aid at GOV UK (Opens in a new window)

The financial settlement

A financial settlement adds to the above costs. A simple agreement where nothing is too complicated or contested will cost around £300 plus VAT, as this involves a solicitor drafting a Financial Remedy Consent Order and the court charging £50.

Where there are more complicated assets then this fee rises to around £1,500. If, however, you need to discuss your assets and the settlement at mediation, then costs will be around £100 an hour for mediation and you'd be looking at at least three to four mediation sessions.

However, if an agreement is contested or cannot be reached, either privately between you or at mediation then your case would be taken to court.

Average divorce court fees

Failing to reach an agreement means you have to apply to the court for an adjudication (a Financial Remedy Order other than by consent). The court will charge you £255 for this and then you have the solicitor’s fees on top, which rocket up to £10,000 to £15,000 – and that’s assuming it’s all done and dusted after a few court appearances.

Contest it after this point then you’re looking at a fully contested final hearing in court where the judge will hear the arguments from each party, and then make a final decision. Solicitor’s fees and court fees for this will cost around £25,000 to £30,000!

Average cost of divorce mediation

Relationship support provider Relate say that mediation ‘generally costs far less than an often lengthy and costly court battle.’ If the thought of paying all those court and solicitor fees fills you with dread then settling a divorce with mediation might be the better option.

A mediator won’t tell you what to do but will aim to help both parties reach their own agreements amicably, whilst trying to improve communication.

An initial meeting fee has to be paid to assess whether your case is suitable for mediation (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) – this ranges from £50 to £120 depending on location and solicitor’s charges. If you end up going to court then you’d need to confirm to the courts you had attended this meeting, as it’s a court requirement.

Depending on how many sessions are needed, costs for mediation can range from £300 to £1,500 – a small slither compared to the thousands and thousands you’re charged if your divorce goes to court.

If paying these costs are just out of the question because you are on a low income, then you might qualify for legal aid. 

Legal aid could help cover the cost of the MIAM (for both of you, even if only one of you is eligible for legal aid), the mediation sessions for the person who qualifies and any help from a solicitor after mediation.

Check to see if you are eligible on GOV.UK (Opens in a new window)

Average cost of divorce arbitration

Another option, and an alternative to court proceedings, is family arbitration. It involves having a third party to collect and hear all evidence and then make a decision, if perhaps a mutual agreement or mediation has failed to sort out matters.

It’s worth bearing in mind that, like the courts, this route means a decision is made for you. You can find a qualified arbitrator listed on the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators website, however costs very case to case and by the level of experience the arbitrator has. Most will also charge by the hour, but a fixed fee can be arranged for more simple cases.

Costs range from £220 per hour and, according to one solicitor on a Mumsnet forum, costs on average £3,000 - £3,500 shared between the couple.

Child maintenance costs

Often when a couple divorce there are children involved, so living arrangements and child maintenance costs need to be sorted.

If you can’t agree how much child maintenance one parent should pay the other, you can ask the Child Maintenance Service to calculate it for you.

There are several factors that it will take into account:

  • How many children you have
  • The income of the paying parent
  • How much time they spend with the paying parent Whether the paying parent is paying child maintenance for other children

These are the current child maintenance costs based on weekly pay.

Find out more about how to arrange child maintenance over on our MoneyHelper website or use the child maintenance calculator on GOV.UK (Opens in a new window)

A divorce is never a nice thing but if the break up is difficult and you end up on bad terms with your partner then you might have to act quickly to protect your finances. 

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