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Filing for divorce: What costs are involved?
Separation is a stressful time for everyone involved, not least because of the financial pressure it brings. If divorce is the only way to go, you’ll need to account for any associated costs, and plan your finances around them accordingly.
Do you have to pay to apply for divorce?
To apply for a divorce, there is a £550 fee. There are also legal fees involved further down the line; the responsibility for paying these will depend on the circumstances of the divorce.
The general rule is that the individual applying for divorce (the petitioner) will pay the court fee. If it’s a mutual decision, the cost can be split between you, although the other party is not legally bound to do so. That is, unless the petitioner claims for costs against the other party.
When can you claim against your partner?
Depending on the reason for your divorce – also known as the ‘fact for divorce’ – you may be able to claim for costs against the other party. These include, but aren’t limited to: adultery, desertion and unreasonable behaviour (domestic abuse, for example).
Looking for more information? Linnitts has a thorough list of all the grounds for divorce.
What if I can’t afford a divorce?
Unless the divorce ends on good terms, additional fees may crop up, mediation for instance. What is mediation?
Depending on your income and circumstances, you may be able to get help with these costs. This help is known as ‘legal aid’.
Legal aid is usually granted if it’s to help pay for mediation. You could also get help to cover wider costs if you’ve been a victim of domestic abuse in the last five years, or if you’re at risk of homelessness.
To apply for legal aid, you’ll need a legal adviser or a mediator to apply on your behalf. They will walk you through the process and the contract; if your application is successful, it will be paid directly to them.
What if I don’t qualify for legal aid?
If you fall outside the entry criteria for legal aid, don’t panic, there’s still other ways of getting help to pay for your legal fees.
Often the most valuable part of aid is the advice. You may still be able to get free guidance from solicitors, with many offering up to a half an hour free consultation.
Some volunteer barristers also offer free ‘pro bono’ advice. Visit Advocate’s website to find out more – they’re a charity who help people find free legal help.
Are they any alternatives to divorce?
If you feel the costs involved in divorce are simply too high, why not look at the other alternatives?
It may seem bizarre, but one option – if you don’t intend to remarry – is to stay married, and instead apply for a legal separation. Through this, you can get a court order outlining various terms of agreement, such as each person’s liability for certain debts and bills.
Depending on your financial situation however, these legal fees may end up costing more than those for divorce, so be sure to weigh up all your options first.
A more common way of ending a marriage is annulment (also called nullity). In order to annul a marriage, you’ll need to prove that it is void, i.e. that wasn’t legally valid to begin with, if one of you was under the age of 16, for example.
If your marriage was legally valid, you can still file for annulment. For example if your marriage hadn’t been consummated since the wedding or if the marriage was not properly consented to.
A final thought…
Please appreciate this is only a guide. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and we unfortunately can’t cover all circumstances of divorce in this guide. But hopefully we’ve given you some information to get you started. Perhaps a general rule of thumb to go by is: the more amicably you can proceed through the divorce process, the less it should cost you.