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The application process for a divorce is completed online via the government website (linked here) and is a relatively straightforward administrative process. To apply for a divorce the Court charge a fee of £593. Whilst you do not necessarily have to instruct a solicitor to complete a divorce application on your behalf, many individuals do so to enable them to feel supported within this process.
If there are jurisdictional issues (for example, if you hold assets across different countries, or have a dual nationality), it is recommended that you seek independent legal advice prior to proceeding with a divorce to enable you to decide the best ‘forum’ (i.e. country) for you to progress matters. A solicitor’s costs in advising you on the divorce process will differ from firm to firm, this can vary from £300 – £1,500 plus VAT, depending on your situation.
Although the divorce process is relatively straightforward, in contrast, resolving finances and, if applicable, child arrangements upon divorce can be less straightforward and is likely to incur greater legal costs. There are a variety of available options to assist couples in reaching financial resolutions and child arrangements and some are more costly than others. How much it costs to resolve financial matters and child arrangements on divorce is very much dependent on the complexity of the financial assets and issues, alongside the process method you and your partner adopt.
What is most important is that once a financial agreement has been reached, is that you and/or your partner (either together or separately, which is expanded upon below) seek legal advice on having that that agreement drawn up into a legally binding financial consent order to be approved by the Court. This is important as it will dismiss your respective financial claims against one another which arise by virtue of your marriage. If you do not set out your agreement within a legally binding document sealed by the Court, your respective financial claims against each other would remain open and there is no time limit for making a claim. A final financial Court order is therefore always preferable to provide you both with certainty of outcomes.
If you and your partner reach an agreement in respect of the arrangements for the children, you do not have to record that agreement in a legally binding document, although some parents like to draw up a parenting plan (which isn’t legally binding) to set out their intentions. A child arrangements order is only made within Court proceedings.
Below is a summary of the various options available to explore financial matters and child arrangements on divorce. This list is not exhaustive and new models are continually being developed. It is also possible to use a combination of process methods and a specialist family law solicitor can advise further on what option may best suit you.
If you and your partner are amicable and can reach a financial agreement between yourselves, one of the most cost-effective options is for you to obtain legal advice on the agreement reached with a view to the solicitor turning that agreement into a legally binding document. Submitting an order to the Court for approval incurs a Court fee of £53.
As noted above, if you and your partner reach an agreement in respect of the arrangements for the children, you may not need to obtain legal advice but may wish to record your agreement in a parenting plan and you can find out more information via the CAFCASS website.
Any legal costs incurred will be dependent the solicitor’s hourly rate and the complexities of the case.
Mediation involves you and your partner sitting down with a mediator, a neutral third party, to facilitate a discussion between you, with a view to working towards workable proposals being reached. Mediation is a voluntarily process and is designed to provide a comfortable and safe space for communication and to reduce conflict. There are differing models of mediation, to include shuttle mediation (where you and your partner are not in a room together if this is necessary) and hybrid mediation (where you each instruct solicitors to provide you with real time legal advice within the mediation process itself). There are also therapeutic based options which may assist your family. You can find out more about mediation and how it works here.
The cost of the mediation sessions will depend on the mediator’s hourly rate, the breadth of the discussions and how many meetings you have. It may be that you and your partner can agree most things between yourselves in one or two sessions. Alternatively, if there are numerous discussion points and matters in issue, the cost of mediation will increase with the number of sessions needed. Again, any financial agreement made in mediation will need to be converted into a legally binding consent order and submitted to the court and you and/or your partner will need to obtain independent legal advice from a solicitor to assist you with this.
At Family Law Partners, we have created Agreeable. This is a new way to divorce whereby a specialist family lawyer and family consultant will work together with you and your partner to help you explore outcomes for your family. We offer a fixed and agreed price which we will discuss with you and your partner at the outset.
The collaborative process involves you and your partner each instructing a family solicitor who is specially trained within the collaborative model to represent you. The process involves a series of discussions and joint meetings for the purposes of settling all issues as ‘four way’ meetings. This works to ensure that you and your partner each have a voice and are in control of the process. The aim is for you and your respective lawyers to work together in reaching creative solutions and this model can be highly effective.
The costs of using the collaborative model will depend on your solicitor’s hourly rate and the complexity of matters.
If it is going to be difficult to reach an agreement with your partner either between yourselves or via mediation, it may be preferable for you and your partner to each instruct a solicitor to negotiate on your behalf. In our experience, this is one of the most frequently adopted process methods, however it is often effectively combined with mediation to ensure cost proportionate solutions are found which enable you and your partner to communicate directly within a safe environment.
The cost is very much dependent on the volume and complexities of your situation and your solicitor’s hourly rate.
Arbitration may be a suitable process method if lawyer negotiations have been unsuccessful, you wish to avoid Court delays and for privacy reasons. Arbitration involves you and your partner appointing an independent arbitrator who will make decisions regarding your finances. Within the process of arbitration you will likely have a solicitor and barrister representing you. Arbitration allows you to resolve your dispute in a way that is akin to the Court process and provides the flexibility to agree deadlines and hearing dates.
Whilst there are increased upfront costs within arbitration, i.e. you pay the arbitrator in addition to your solicitor and barrister, the speed at which outcomes can be reached will often significantly reduce the total costs incurred over a longer period of time if you were within the Court route. In our experience, it is not uncommon for the delay in Court proceedings to result in other satellite issues arising and needing to be dealt with, which will increase costs.
Court proceedings may become necessary if it is not possible for you and your partner to reach a resolution using the other options outlined above. The Court process can be helpful for many couples as it provides an established Court timetable that will ultimately result in a final order made. The Court process itself incorporates opportunities for settlement before you get to the stage of a Final Hearing where the Court decide the outcome.
The Court fee for issuing proceedings is £275 in a financial matter and £232 in application concerning arrangements for the children. Prior to making an application to the Court, unless you qualify for an exemption (for example the application is urgent or there are issues of domestic abuse), there is a statutory obligation for the applicant to attend a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM). During that meeting, a mediator will discuss all the available options to you, including whether mediation is appropriate, prior to providing you with a certificate to be provided to the Court at the time you make an application. The mediator will provide you with details of their costs for conducting a MIAM.
The court process for both financial and children disputes has three stages, it is possible for you and your partner to come to an agreement at any point and it is likely that you will not have to attend all three hearings. However, costs can be significant for the work necessary for the preparation of and attendance at hearings. In addition, you will also need to instruct a barrister to represent you at an additional cost.
In all the above options, there is often the need for external experts to be instructed, for example accountants to comment on tax positions or business valuations, pension actuaries to report on appropriate pension sharing calculations or mortgage brokers to advice on mortgage raising capacities. The costs for any necessary expert will be in addition to the costs of your solicitor.
No one option is always suitable for every couple, and it is not uncommon to combine the various methods to ensure out of Court resolutions can be reached. If you are considering a divorce, please contact our expert family law specialists who are on hand to help advise you on your options and provide you with cost estimates based on the circumstances and complexities of your case.