Legal fees can be a barrier to hiring a lawyer for your divorce. If you don’t qualify for state help to cover your legal fees for divorce or don’t have savings or can’t pay through your income, how do you find the funds? Here are some options you can consider.
How much you have to pay for your divorce depends on your circumstances and where in the UK you live. It’s possible that you may not have to pay court fees for divorce, or only have to pay them in part, but this will depend on any savings you have and your income.
What About Legal Aid?
Unfortunately, Legal Aid is no longer available for divorce in England and Wales, unless you have been the victim of domestic abuse (including financial abuse) or violence. If your child has been abducted, you could also be eligible for Legal Aid to pay legal fees for divorce.
You could be eligible for Legal Aid to cover the cost of mediation. However, this is means tested.
If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland, you could qualify for Legal Aid to pay legal fees for divorce. However, this will depend on your income and any savings, investments and assets you have – not including your main home.
How To Pay Your Divorce Lawyer’s Fees
Savings and income
If you have enough savings or income, you should use these to pay your divorce lawyer’s fees. However, this may not be possible for everyone. If you can’t pay legal fees for divorce upfront, there are several other options available to you.
If you don’t have enough savings or income, you could pay legal fees for divorce from your financial settlement. This option is known as a ‘Sears Tooth Agreement’ in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In Scotland, you can pay your legal fees following the sale of your home, if it’s sold as part of your financial settlement. You would need to sign an ‘irrevocable mandate’ agreement, which means that you can’t cancel it once you have signed.
This will instruct the solicitor selling your home to pay any outstanding legal fees you may have, before the rest of the money is passed to you.
This is not an option that courts routinely offer, but in some cases they will. You will have to demonstrate that you have explored every other option available to pay legal fees for your divorce and that your former spouse has the means to pay also.
Funding from your former spouse
It’s possible that you may be able to agree, without court involvement, for your former spouse to pay legal fees for divorce. If your former spouse has the means and your separation is amicable, this is a possibility.
However, if it’s not possible, you could seek a court order for your former spouse to pay for your divorce if your marriage broke down on the following grounds:
- Unreasonable behaviour
The court will not issue an order – known as a Costs Order – for your former spouse to pay the costs associated with divorce if it’s based on two years’ separation with consent or five years’ separation.
An order for your former partner to pay costs for a divorce will most likely be successful if one of the fault-based reasons is attributed to the breakdown of a marriage.
Ask family or friends for help
You could ask family or friends to help pay legal fees for your divorce. This might be a cheaper and easier option than taking out a bank, building society or another type of loan. It’s good practice to get a formal agreement drafted or the court may not take the loan into account when considering how to divide finances and assets.
It’s worth making sure you can afford to pay the loan back to avoid harming family relationships and friendships.
The above options are the safer payment solutions available to you. However, some law firms may recommend that you apply for a 0% interest credit card, take out a personal loan, a special divorce loan or litigation loan (available in England, Scotland and Wales).
Transparent about legal fees
Thank you to Claire Holland and the team at Holland Family Law for this very useful article. To discuss how to finance your divorce get in touch with Holland Family Law HERE
“Holland Family Law are totally transparent about legal fees. We offer a free, 30-minute consultation from the outset and we apply a range of fixed fees for several of our services. If your case requires work outside of our fixed fee services, we will clearly explain our legal costs at every stage – itemising everything if needed.
This ensures that you know where you stand with the legal costs involved, enabling you to budget and source funding as needed.”