How much does a divorce cost in the UK?
Divorce in the UK can either be ‘contested’ or ‘uncontested’. The type of divorce you have will affect the overall cost.
In England and Wales, the divorcing couple is defined in terms of ‘petitioner’ and ‘respondent’, where the petitioner is the person who starts divorce proceedings.
Even if the divorce is by mutual consent, the couple must decide who will take on which role.
An uncontested divorce involves the respondent agreeing to the reason the petitioner has put in the divorce petition to show that the divorce has irretrievably broken down.
The reasons available are as follows:
- unreasonable behaviour
- two years of separation and both parties consent
- five years of separation (consent not necessary)
The divorce may be uncontested because the reasons given amount to mutual consent, such as the ‘two years of separation and both parties consent’ option, or it might be that the respondent admits to adultery or unreasonable behaviour.
If the divorce is uncontested and relatively straight forward, the cost will relate to the set court fees and the accompanying solicitor’s fees. Most solicitors offer a fixed fee divorce package to cater for these circumstances. The fixed fee may or may not include the court fees.
Some uncontested divorces may still involve complex factors, for example:
- documents needing translation
- other party living abroad
In these circumstances, divorce can become more expensive. If the respondent wants to defend the divorce — by arguing that it should not go ahead in its current form — they can submit an ‘answer’ on the divorce form and begin to contest it.
There are a number of reasons why a person may wish to defend a divorce. Often this is because the respondent does not agree with the reasons stated on the petition. Another reason is that the spouse may not believe that the relationship is irreconcilable.
During a contested divorce, both parties may seek representation by a solicitor. Solicitors’ fees are usually charged on an hourly rate.
In some circumstances orders for costs can be made.
How much does it cost to file divorce papers?
To initiate the divorce process you are required to fill in a divorce petition. You will also be required to pay a court fee which is currently £550. This is regardless of whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. Dependant on your income, you may not have to pay all of the fee.
The fee covers the costs of processing the divorce, including the final decree absolute application.
Payments would accompany your divorce petition.
How much does a divorce cost if both parties agree?
If both parties agree on the reason for the divorce, the cost of the divorce is often limited to:
- standard court fees
- cost of your solicitor’s fees for a no-contest divorce — often a fixed fee
Such orders can also outline child maintenance arrangements and other maintenance payments.
Making the initial application to start divorce proceedings, known as filing for petition, currently costs £550 in England and Wales.
There may be additional costs if, for example, you require a replacement marriage certificate or if translation of documents is required.
Can I get help with divorce costs?
If you earn less than a specified amount or claim certain benefits, you may not be required to pay the full cost of your court fees.
Those claiming the following benefits can get help with their fees:
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Income Support
- Universal Credit (and you earn less than £6,000 a year)
- Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit)
At present (November 2017), single people earning less than £1,085 a month before tax are eligible for help with their fees. The amount rises to £1,245 if the person is in a new relationship.
The amount a person can earn before they are no longer eligible for financial aid also rises with every child they are responsible for.
Who pays for the divorce costs?
It is the responsibility of the petitioner to pay the costs when they initially file for divorce. However, the petitioner can ask the respondent to pay for some or all the costs in certain circumstances.
These include if:
- the divorce is fault-based and the respondent has admitted to adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion
- both parties have agreed to an amicable divorce and wish to share the costs
- the divorce is contested; in which case the petitioner may wish the respondent to pay for any fees incurred by their solicitor
How much does a divorce cost after 2 years?
By stating that you have ‘lived apart for more than 2 years’ as the reason for the divorce, you are saying that both parties consent to what is effectively a ‘no-fault divorce’ (once the respondent has clearly stated that this is the case).
The result of this is that you can avoid the expense associated with a lengthy divorce. The likely fees you will have to pay are:
- court costs of £550
- any consent orders you may require (separate fees payable to fixed fee divorce)
- solicitor’s fees for preparing the divorce documents
A detailed statement of your living arrangements is usually required by the court before this type of divorce is granted.
The best way to satisfy the court that you have been living separately is by providing evidence that you have been living in separate households over the 2 years. It is more difficult to convince the court that you have been separated for more than 2 years if you say you have done so while living together.
The actual divorce process is the same, and takes the same length of time, whether you have been separated for 2 years or if you are citing one of the other reasons for breakdown of your marriage.
How much does a divorce cost after 5 years?
One option that can be stipulated on the divorce petition as a reason for the divorce is ‘you have lived apart for at least 5 years’.
This will allow a divorce to go ahead, even without the consent of the respondent, only if:
- the petitioner knows the address of the respondent
- the respondent acknowledges the proceedings by responding to the acknowledgement of service
If these conditions are met, the cost can be limited to the standard court fees of £550 as well as any solicitor’s fees that may be charged.
However, if the address is not known or the respondent refuses to co-operate, you will need to prove that they have received the divorce petition, and this may be subject to extra costs.
These could include paying for a court bailiff or private process server to serve the papers on the respondent personally.
A court bailiff’s fee is approximately £100 while private process servers usually charge around £150–£200.
When the papers have been served, you can proceed with the divorce.
Extra costs may also be incurred if you do not know the respondent’s address.
These may be due to:
- serving the papers to someone who knows them or the respondent’s place of work
- applying to forgo service of the divorce petition if the respondent cannot reasonably be found