Is there such a thing as a free or cheap divorce?
Maybe if you don’t want to share assets such as cars, home, business, pensions, savings and investments, then you shouldn’t get married in the first place. Unfortunately, getting married could lead to divorce. Who knows what the future holds. Are you looking for a cheap divorce?
In 2018, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that there were 90,871 divorces of hetrosexual partners, a drop of 10.6% compared with the previous year and the lowest number since 1971. The divorce rate dropped significantly to 7.5 per 1,000 married men and women. In 2018, the figure was 8.4. According to the ONS divorcing couples were married for an average of 12 and a half years. However, The Guardian stated that it was partly due to processing problems and a backlog issue.
If you have assets you could be set to lose 50% of them, so that’s not cheap.
So lets’s talk about the process of getting divorced. It could be argued that getting divorced in the best way possible, is an “investment” in your future. Divorce experts will tell you that getting the right settlement is crucial for you to move on with your life and to minimise the fallout for any children. The majority of couples put the children first, but for some, they don’t care about what happens to the kids, it’s all about preserving assets and they will do ANYTHING to keep them intact.
For some parents, even though it is not in the best interests of the children, they will fight tooth and nail to ensure they get a 50/50 shared care/child arrangements order. They hope that it will preserve their assets a little more than if they had to pay child maintenance and provide a home for their spouse to live with the children. We have heard of instances where children are spending an hour or more travelling to and from school every other week because a parent wanted shared care for their own financial gain. “Why don’t they move nearer to the school?” we hear you ask. The answer is that it’s not about the children. It’s all about money.
Divorce for free?
“How to divorce for free” and “cheap divorce” are much searched terms on google. However, getting a “free” divorce is virtually impossible, but it depends on what you mean by free.
You can go online to somewhere such as Quickie Divorce – where they state “Your divorce petition can be initiated online now for just £37”. They also say, “you can have all petitions and applications drafted for you for just £67”. On the surface, this all looks like a terrific deal, where do we sign? Can you really get a cheap divorce with Quickie Divorce?
Can you really get divorced, a full and final, decree absolute for £67? Probably not. The above costs are just for the drafting of paperwork. There can be much more to a divorce than simply signing on the dotted line.
Divorce can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. There are a number of ways to fund the cost of a divorce and in every case it is important to balance the costs and benefits. If you are thinking about consulting a lawyer then they should speak with you to discuss your options fully. They should also discuss different ways to fund your case to make sure you can make an informed decision that’s right for you.Mark Heppinstall – Freeths
The Court Fees
For a start, there is the court fee of £550. This is a fee which applies to everyone. To get divorced, a divorce petition has to go in front of a judge at some point and there is no way of avoiding that fact. The Judge decides whether to allow you to continue divorce proceedings based on the reasons you have given. These are mandatory court fees. Normally the person applying for the divorce pays the £550 fee.
If you are on a low income or certain benefits, you may be able to get money off the court fees. Benefits such as income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income support, universal credit and pension credit could mean that you get a discounted fee or the fee could be waived altogether. You can take a look at “help with court fees” at www.gov.uk. You can also apply for a divorce online here.
You now have the gist of the court fees involved. So what else might you need? If there are no children and no assets, then it might be that a cheap divorce is possible simply by paying the court fees, if the paperwork is completed by the couple themselves and the government website is used. The free divorce scenario would only be possible if the court fees are also taken out of the equation because of low-income or receipt of benefits.
What about children and any assets?
However if there are assets and/or children, then it is best to seek some kind of legal advice, The citizens advice bureau can help. They rightly say that you could get a divorce without a solicitor or attending court if you can agree that you want a divorce and the reason why, (attending court means that you are battling things out in front of a Judge. Your paperwork still needs to “attend” – or go in front of the Judge and you still need to pay the £550 unless you are exempt).
But, this is all just the divorce part. You can think of divorce as having three parts.
- The divorce
- Finances (assets, house, pension sharing, money etc)
You need to agree on the children and finances too, and these two issues need to be agreed separately. You’ll also need to divide any money and assets you share and decide what happens to the family home plus think about where the children will live. Talk to someone about “Pension Sharing” – because if you don’t you might live to regret it when you retire!
Can you receive Legal Aid for the cost of your divorce?
If you have suffered domestic abuse or violence or financial/coercive control you may qualify for Legal Aid.
You may be entitled to Legal Aid for your divorce or dissolution of your civil partnership. You will need to find a lawyer who takes on Legal Aid clients, as not all family lawyers do. Take advice from legal professionals and domestic abuse charities; keep yourself and your family safe in this situation. Take a look in our resources area for Domestic Abuse Charities.
Speak to your GP and don’t be afraid to contact the police for further advice. Taking advice or calling the police doesn’t start a process whereby your spouse will get wind of what’s going on. It is well recognised that domestic abuse is a very delicate matter which has to be dealt with safely.
- If you are researching these matters on the internet, don’t forget to clear your browsing history *
Collate your evidence and speak to an expert
You might be able to get legal aid if you have evidence that you or your children have been victims of domestic abuse or violence and you cannot afford to pay legal costs.
Remember that you do not have to get evidence before talking to a legal aid solicitor or Civil Legal Advice (CLA), but they’ll need to see it before deciding whether you can get legal aid. You will also need to provide evidence of your income and may need to be in receipt of some kind of benefit such as Universal Credit.
If you are receiving Jobseekers Allowance – make your advisor aware of your situation as they should be more lenient with Domestic Abuse Victims, There is help available around looking for work and housing benefit- See this guide on the government website
From Gov.UK – What counts as domestic abuse for legal aid
You or your children must have been victims of either:
- domestic abuse or violence
- financial control, for example being stopped from accessing a joint bank account, having benefits paid into your partners account, being given an “allowance”.
You’ll usually need to show that you or your children were at risk of harm from an ex-partner.
You can ask for evidence from:
- the courts
- the police
- a multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC)
- social services
- a health professional, for example a doctor, nurse, midwife, psychologist or health visitor
- a refuge manager
- a domestic violence support service
- your bank, for example credit card accounts, loan documents and statements
- your employer, or education or training provider
- the provider of any benefits you’ve received
Taken from Gov.UK – Read more about this here
If you can’t decide or agree, you could try mediation. If you can work through matters and come to an agreement, this will save you money. In basic terms, the more you argue points, the more you pay. The quicker you can come to decisions you agree on, the better your bank balance will look. We have several mediation experts in The Hug Directory
Have you considered an online portal such as amicable who feature in The Hug Directory.
amicable is a tech-enabled divorce service. We offer a lawyer free alternative for divorce, separation and co-parenting. Uniquely, we are the destination service for couples. amicable was created after our founder, Kate’s traumatic and expensive divorce. The cost and the emotional damage of involving lawyers was a huge shock.amicable
Family Law Cafe offer a fixed fee structure…..
The Family Law Cafe is a new take on how people can resolve family law issues and get the results they want. When you come to the Family Law Cafe, you will be mentored through resolving your issue – starting with making a plan. We can then provide you with whatever experts your case calls for and follow its progress to ensure that you stay focused on getting the results you want.
We provide this mentoring service to people for a fixed price over a fixed amount of time – usually 6 month increments. You pay a SET MONTHLY FEE and get the following via your secure online case space portalFamily Law Cafe
Litigant in Person
If mediation doesn’t work, you could represent yourself as a Litigant in Person through the court process. You could also have a McKenzie Friend to support you and you can find out more about the work they do here.
When it comes to divorce support for my clients, it depends entirely on their circumstances and needs. Several times a year I provide pro bono help with children matters, divorce and financial remedy proceedings.
For most clients, I will always charge for a first consultation (£93). However, during this consultation, I may review and polish up a draft divorce petition, so it can be lodged in court the next day by a client.
Alternatively, during the consultation, I might suggest that once a client has completed their draft divorce petition that they email it to me for a final check, where I will charge £55. The most popular divorce petition service I offer, is under my 5 hour Discounted Package Offer (£425 all inc.) fixed-fee, assisting from drafting the D8, up to and including grant of decree absolute.”Nicky – Founder of Family Law Clinic
Many people choose to use a Family Solicitor. Fees vary greatly, anything from £75 per hour upto £600/£800+ for a top family lawyer. Who you use will much depend on the assets and complexities of the case. It may be that a firm can come to an agreement where the fee is paid from the settlement you receive.
“In certain circumstances I am able to secure a litigation loan for my client or I have also been able to secure funding from the other side. It is always worthwhile giving me a call to have a chat as each case is unique and individual. I also offer fixed fees” Amrit Johal – Family Solicitor – Portner Law
Some cases involve parties who are asset rich and cash poor and this is definitely where the possibility of a “Litigation Loan” should be explored with a law firm.
As we mentioned before, the costs of divorce rise with litigation (not coming to an agreement) and another useful resource to keep costs down, could be to engage with a Divorce Coach. Getting divorced involves a whole host of emotions and having someone who can help you to see the way through, will really help. You can forget the small stuff and concentrate on what really matters. You can find Divorce Coaches and Consultants such as Rhiannon Ford in this area of The Hug Directory. Many of the coaches are experts by experience, having been through divorce themselves.
So the answer is that yes, you can get a cheap divorce and even maybe a FREE divorce, but think about the impact your divorce will have on your future. We would always urge everyone to get some initial legal advice and many solicitors offer this service. Get in touch with solicitors in The Hug Directory.
Take a look around www.thegrouphug.com and chat in the forum to others who are going through divorce or separation.
Don’t rush into anything as you might regret your “now decisions”, in the future.
Financial Advisor Hulya Gunay has very kindly given us her thoughts on how to fund your divorce and the cost implications if you don’t get good advice.
There is no doubt that divorce is expensive… The cost varies depending on which route you take. The bare minimum is £550 if you are the petitioner applying for a divorce for a court fee.
However, most divorces cost much more than that. To be able to get an absolute decree which means you are officially divorced, you need to agree on Financial Settlements Order. In order to reach an agreement you may consider :
Mediation or Collaborative Law
Failing to agree on matters using the above mentioned route, means that everything has to go to the court and the legal fees can rack up to the region of tens of thousands of pounds
Apart from the legal fees, going to the court will take you a long time. Considering that time is money and you would like to move on with your life as soon as possible, it is best to come to an agreement sooner rather than later.
Most people go into the Financial Settlement negotiations quite blindly. Then they make quite expensive mistakes, which is very difficult to change once the order is made. That is why it is important to engage a Financial Advisor before, during and after the divorce.
A Financial Advisor will help you to understand the whole financial picture now, and the financial implications of your divorce in the long term or in the short term. It is more important to consider this route if you have children. Form E is based on voluntary disclosure and in some cases, it is difficult to understand the real value of some assets such as Pensions, Business Assets and Trust structures. Without having a real valuation of all the real matrimonial assets, you may be losing money in the division of assets as it would not reflect the real value.
The tax implications of a divorce also need to be considered when thinking about the cost of a divorce. Once you get divorced, you will lose some of the exemptions and allowances which you may have had as a married couple. If you put relevant structures for tax planning in place, you will save money that you would be paying to the tax man instead.
If you do not have the necessary cash to pay the court and the legal fees the options would be either to apply for a loan or to make an agreement with your legal representatives. Some solicitors will agree payment terms once the payment from the settlement is agreed. It is not a common practice, but it still happens. There are a lot of resources where you can get free advice such as Citizens Advice Bureau or find our if you are eligible for Legal Aid.
In most cases the family home is the biggest asset and unless it is sold neither spouse may have sufficient funds to afford court and legal fees. It is also common that one party may be asking for the legal fees from the other. It is best to be mindful of paying the other parties fees.
The children’s needs are priority in a divorce, and if you are a resident parent the Child Support Agency is there to help you for maintenance payments.
Whatever your circumstances are, or your financial standing is, there are always options and it is a matter of making informed decisions on the costs rather than based on emotions and fear.