How to pay legal fees when you separate if you were living together

If you separate and you’re not married or in a civil partnership, you don’t have to go through a formal legal process. But if you decide to take your partner to court – for example, for a share of the home or because you can’t agree how to divide joint assets or possessions – you’ll have to pay legal and other fees. If you can’t pay them from your savings or income, there are other options.

Paying your solicitor’s fees

Before you think about making a claim against your ex-partner, it’s important to work out how you would pay for any legal advice. If you can’t afford it from your savings or income, it’s important to think carefully about whether court action is the best option. In some cases, the cost of taking action might cost more than any financial benefit you’d get as a result.

If you don’t have savings or income, there are several ways you can borrow money. But think carefully before you borrow, and try not to take out a high-cost loan. This could be hard to repay, especially as many people face extra costs when they first separate.

Borrowing from family or friends

You might be able to borrow from family or friends. This could be cheaper than borrowing from a bank, building society or other loan provider. But you need to be sure you can pay the money back. If you can’t, it could harm the friendship or family relationship.

0% interest credit card

A credit card that charges 0% interest on purchases means you pay no interest on your spending for a limited time – usually between three and 12 months.

The longer the 0% interest deal runs for, the longer you have to pay it off without being charged interest.

You’ll usually only qualify for these cards if you have a very good credit rating.

Try to only borrow what you need, and pay off what you’ve borrowed as soon as you can.

Personal loan

You might be able to take out a personal loan from a bank, building society or other loan provider.

The amount you can borrow and the interest rate will depend on your situation and the lender you apply to.

The interest rate and monthly payments will be fixed and the loan will run for a set term. But you can usually make extra payments to pay off your loan more sooner, without being charged large early repayment fees. 

Credit unions

You might be able to borrow money from a credit union, a community saving and loans provider owned and run by its members.

The interest they can charge is limited by law, so it’ll be much cheaper than other short-term loans – such as a doorstep or payday lender.

Other funding options

It’s worth checking your home insurance policy – as it could include cover for legal expenses.

If you belong to a trade union, see if it provides support for legal fees.

If you have children and are going to court over them, you might be able to apply to the court to get your ex-partner to contribute to your legal fees.

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Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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