Getting a divorce in England or Wales will cost a bare minimum of £550 no matter how you go about it, since those are the mandatory court fees that must be paid in every divorce. On top of the court fees, you may end up paying for a financial order (£200+) and for professional support. If your marriage does end up on the rocks, what are your options for getting divorced, and how much will they set you back?
- What are the costs of mandatory court fees and a financial order?
- Cost of options for getting divorced: DIY, online and solicitor
- Divorce costs explained in detail
(Note: this article discusses England and Wales only, since Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own divorce procedures)
Basic Costs of Getting Divorced
In England and Wales, 33.3% of marriages end in divorce. Here are the basic costs of getting divorced.
|Financial order||£200-400 (online service)|
Beyond the £550 in court fees that are paid in nearly all divorces, and the cost of a financial order, you may incur other fees for professional guidance as you navigate the stressful and confusing process of getting divorced. Here are additional costs you might incur depending on how you choose to handle your divorce.
Your Options for Getting Divorced, and their Costs
|Online divorce Service||£50-80 (DIY)|
|Solicitor||£450-800 (if uncontested)|
|Hourly fees of £100-300+ (if contested)|
Getting Divorced in England and Wales
According to the Office for National Statistics, 42% of all marriages in England and Wales end in divorce, with an average (median) marriage length of 12.2 years. So while no one (well, almost no one) gets married with the intention of getting divorced, the statistics show that every marriage stands a decent chance of ending up with a decree absolute.
As the table above shows, how much a divorce will set you back depends a lot on the circumstances of your divorce: is it amicable and agreed, or contested (or “defended”, to use the legal jargon) and decidedly unfriendly? How complicated are your financial affairs? Are there lots of different assets involved? Do you have children and, if so, what ages are they? Will you need to contribute to the costs of running two households after your divorce? The total cost of a divorce depends on three key factors:
- Is the divorce contested or amicable?
- How complicated are your financial and family affairs (property, assets, children?)
- Will you go the DIY route, or use an online divorce service, or use solicitors?
Every situation is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to getting a divorce. Depending on your situation and the circumstances of your potential divorce, you do have several options as to how to go about it. Let’s take a more detailed look at them:
1. Doing It Yourself—the DIY Divorce: £550 (you only pay the court fees)
This is the cheapest option for untying the knot, but it’s only really a viable option if both sides agree to the divorce, and that everything is amicable and uncontested.
Be aware, though, that you’ll receive no support from anyone, so it will take time and legal research to make sure you’re doing everything correctly.
You can find all the necessary documents on the government’s website. Click here for the online divorce portal.
If you go this route, you’ll need to complete and file the online petition form (D8), and then everything else will be done through the post. And don’t forget that, even if you do choose the DIY route, you’ll still need to pay the £550 court fees at the time you make your application. There’s no way around this, no matter how you choose to process your divorce. The only exception is if you’re eligible for relief on the court fees, if you’re on benefits or a low income, or if you have low savings (below £3,000 if you’re under 61 years of age).
2. Using an Online Divorce Service: £550 court fees + £50-250
If you don’t feel able or willing to go the DIY route, the next cheapest option is using an online divorce service, of which there are plenty these days.
They work on a fixed price package basis, which means they probably won’t be willing to take you on as a client if your divorce circumstances are complicated, or if it’s contested and/or likely to require a lot of negotiation between the parties.
Within the fixed price packages, there are DIY options available, in which the online service will guide you through the process. But you’ll still be filing the divorce petition and running the process yourself. If you think your divorce will be straightforward (which usually means agreed, uncontested and amicable), but you just need some hand-holding to make sure you’re doing everything correctly, this may be a good option for you.
The DIY options usually cost around £50-80, although one or two seem to offer this service for free—just make sure you’re fully aware of all the costs before you commit yourself.
A more hands-on “managed” service is also usually available, where the online service will take care of the document filing and all necessary steps on your behalf. This service usually costs around £100-250, but again, it’s generally only available where your divorce is likely to be quite straightforward.
3. Using a Solicitor: £550 court fees + £700 to £’000s
It’s difficult to avoid using a solicitor if your divorce falls into the "not straightforward" category. What do we mean by this? If your divorce is contested/defended, if you have lots of different types of assets, where children are involved, and/or where it will not be easy to reach an agreement between the parties.
Fixed price packages are available, usually starting at around £700 + VAT, but for anything but the most straightforward divorces (if there is such a thing), you may find it difficult to avoid paying hourly rates to solicitors. This, of course, is when the fees can rack up quickly, especially when complex negotiation between the parties is required, and especially if you need to go to court for what’s known as a 'financial dispute resolution hearing' (in other words, if the parties cannot reach agreement by themselves). For this, you’ll also need to be represented in court by a barrister, whose fees can often run into the thousands, just for a single court hearing.
Over several months (even longer) of negotiations and discussions, your total bill can easily run into thousands, so it’s worth discussing with your solicitor at the outset, so you understand what is involved, or what may be involved further down the line. Once you’re on the legal treadmill, it can be difficult to jump off, so it’s important to be fully aware of what you’re getting into before you start instructing solicitors and spending money.
It’s important to bear in mind that the legal dissolution of your marriage does not sever financial ties with your former spouse. Even if you reach an agreement as to what happens with your money, property and other assets, and even with child and spousal maintenance after your marriage, nothing is legally binding unless it’s the subject of a court order.
It’s a common mistake many amicable couples make when getting divorced, that they fail to obtain a financial court order to legally separate their finances and assets.
This doesn’t need to be expensive, though, and you can get help from online divorce services (around £200-400), or from a solicitor (£500-1,500 + VAT). Again, it all depends how complex your situation is, and also how friendly.
Does it Matter Who Divorces Whom?
Yes, it does. First, the £550 court fees are paid by the petitioner—that is, the person who files the divorce petition. Of course, you can agree to split those fees (and any other costs) in an amicable divorce, but many divorces are not amicable, so it may not be possible split them.
Second, if the chosen “ground for divorce” is one of the three “at fault” grounds (i.e. adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion), then the petitioner can also request that the respondent pays their legal costs. This can be at the discretion of the court, though, so it’s not guaranteed.
And third, the legal fees for the respondent will generally be a little lower than for the petitioner.
Getting Divorced: The Final Word
It’s well known that getting divorced is one of the most stressful experiences anyone can go through in their life. It can also be one of the most expensive. But the statistics show that more than four in ten married couples will get divorced, so it’s important that we’re all aware of how the system works, what our options are, and how much it might cost.
There’s no substitute for good advice, though, so if you’re thinking about divorce, or already going through it, talk to people who have experienced it, and perhaps get some introductory (and often free) advice from a solicitor, before you decide on a particular course of action.