The cost of divorce

Posted on October 1, 2015 by Eleanor McKenzie
An engagement ring in a dictionary definition of divorce

Divorce can be an unfortunate fact of life but for many people the financial costs are too high, particularly if you have lots of shared assets. But there are ways to keep your costs down and stop giving too much money to solicitors.

I’ve been through two divorces and neither of them have cost much: in the case of the first one it was because we had no shared assets such as a property (we were young) or children; with the second one, we had a child and a property, but we reached an agreement about childcare and the property without having to pay a solicitor.

I know that not everyone is fortunate enough to have such amenable ex-husbands, who don’t want to go down the route of handing more cash than necessary over to a law firm. We certainly couldn’t have afforded the £44,000 costs that the average couple spends on a divorce in 2015. In 2006, the average expenditure on divorce proceedings was £28,000, which shows just what an upward hike costs have taken in under a decade. So, what can you do to keep costs down?

DIY divorce

This is an increasingly popular option, and it is the one I used. I may have needed a little help from a solicitor the first time, but the cost was minimal and I just needed his advice about filling out the form correctly. Also, now that ‘public access’ is allowed, giving you the freedom to instruct a barrister personally without having to go through a solicitor, you are in a better position to hold on to your cash.

You will need to fill out a lot of forms, so it helps if you feel confident with that. If you know that you’re going to need a court appearance and representation by a barrister, then you will substantially lower your costs by filling in the forms, hiring a barrister and excluding a solicitor, according to Simon Sugar from 1 Garden Court.

 

A couple's hands across a table

See a mediator

Disagreements in divorces have an emotional cost as well as a financial one. Simon Sugar suggests that meeting with a mediator to negotiate how you split your assets will not only cut your costs, it will also decrease the high stress levels associated with this life event. Relate, the national organisation that offers relationship advice and help, offers mediation sessions and, as some of its mediators come from a legal background, it is a sound place to start.

If you can’t agree a settlement at mediation, at least you will come away with a clearer idea about the things that you are going to need legal help with and what your partner’s position is. Mediation allows each person the opportunity to voice his or her concerns about all aspects of the divorce in a safe environment. Unlike discussions at home a mediator sets ground rules and can often clarify what one member of the couple is saying if the other partner doesn’t seem to grasp it.

Additional tips for reducing fees

Most of us are aware that lawyers work ‘on the clock,’ and that any interaction with a client is billable. So, here are a few tips to keep these billable costs down:

  • So, here are a few tips to keep these billable costs down:
  • Never call your solicitor to have a long moan about your ex – that’s what friends are for, and they don’t charge.
  • If you must speak to your solicitor on the phone, keep it brief and to the point.
  • Correspond with your solicitor by email. Ask for legal documents to be sent to you via email in a Word format so that you can comment on the contents by use of ‘Track Changes.’ This means the solicitor can easily see what alterations are required and make those changes without you having to visit the office and explain them.

Where to get information

Visit the Gov.uk website section on divorce. It takes you through all the steps in the process and provides links to all the various documents you need.

The Bar Council provides a guide to Public Access Barristers and instructions about how to find one for your area.

I have already mentioned Relate, which provides mediation sessions. You will have to pay for these, so contact them for up-to-date details of the cost. Alternatively, the Family Mediation Council also has a nationwide directory of mediators. It is also worth mentioning that unmarried couples with children can also use mediation services, plus grandparents, step-parents and children are also welcome to use the service.

Searching for compromises, and looking for ways to achieve a fair outcome that involves as little legal intervention as possible, is the best way to save money in divorce suits. Of course, it would be better if divorce could be avoided, but sometimes the other option is just too high a price to pay.

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.