Table of contents:
- Introduction to UK divorces
- The different types of divorce and separation
- Legal reasons for a divorce
- The full divorce process
- The splitting of assets
- Children issues
- Divorce statistics
- Useful links
How Much Does A Divorce Cost?
Divorce costs are often based on each individual case and differ from solicitor to solicitor. At Pinnington Law we offer an open approach with fixed fee rates. We will speak directly with you regarding your situation, the divorce, and the potential financial situations that might occur as a result of your divorce.
Usually, the difficulty of the divorce case determines the fees charged. For example, someone who is hiring a solicitor to help fill out paperwork and file with the court system but has an uncontested divorce, generally takes less time for the preparation and actual court situation. A person that may have a contested divorce or trouble getting in contact with their spouse might require more of our time. These differing situations can influence the fixed fee which we will quote you.
Typically, we offer a cost-effective fixed fee in order to help you proceed with the divorce, especially when it simply involves preparing the divorce papers both parties will need to sign. This can include any court, letter writing, and finalisation procedures as well.
Pinnington Law’s fixed fee divorce costs
We provide a fixed-fee where both parties cooperate with the divorce process.
Our fixed-fee includes:
- Initial consultation for up to one hour
- Preparation of the paperwork
- Correspondence with your spouse/civil partner or their solicitor
- Correspondence with the court
- Applying for the decree absolute/final order
Fees for petitioners
The party starting the divorce proceedings is referred to as the “Petitioner”.
Our fees: £750
Court Fees: £550
Fees for respondents
If your spouse or civil partner is issuing the proceedings, you are referred to as the “Respondent”.
Our fees: £450
Introduction To UK Divorces
The divorce process can be a stressful and emotional time for all parties involved and unfortunately, it’s not a rare event in the UK. In any divorce procedure it’s important to have someone on your side, who’s only interested in your best interests. A family law solicitor will help you to understand the process of a divorce and ensure you come out the other side in the best possible shape.
Family law solicitors are fully trained to discuss all your options and help you decide on the right avenue to go down. As such, the whole divorce process can be made simpler and as stress-free as possible.
You’ll want to know both yours and your ex-partner’s rights. Without legal training this can be difficult and a family law solicitor is required to give you top advice.
This guide has been created to provide a full understanding of the full divorce procedure, including advice on how much a divorce will cost.
Remember, you should seek immediate advice if you:
- Have nowhere to live
- Are in a domestically abusive relationship
- Do not have access to your children
- Are financially vulnerable
- Are unable to agree on a fair settlement
- Have lots of assets to split up.
The Different Types Of Divorce And Separation
A divorce may only be applied for if you have been married in excess of 12 months. The marriage must also be recognised under UK law. There are no exceptions to either of these.
Both a husband or wife can apply for a divorce. This person is from then on regarded as the petitioner. The other party is the respondent.
A divorce is filed with the HM Courts & Tribunals Service and more details about this application can be found at www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk.
There are two types of divorce – an uncontested and a defended. If neither party objects the divorce it is known as uncontested. If either does not agree to the proceedings – It’s defended.
An uncontested divorce is a much more straightforward procedure than a defended one – although problems can still arise when splitting assets. All uncontested courts are dealt with in the Family Court and because of its nature, you won’t always require a solicitor.
However, it’s still advised to seek advice from an expert – especially when filing for divorce. Solicitors can offer assistance on a number of matters such as whether there are sufficient grounds and the evidence required.
Of course, it’s also highly advised to seek out a solicitor if there will be disputes about children, money or property. If domestic violence is an issue, you may also be eligible to receive legal aid.
Defended divorces are heard in the High Court and are listed when one of the parties is disputing the divorce. Because of the complexity of this compared to an uncontested divorce, the process itself is typically much longer.
As a defended divorce is heard in court, you will require legal assistance to act on your behalf. Legal fees will often be more expensive in this case and will range depending on the length of the divorce process.
It’s highly advised for both parties to form an agreement before attending court as this can minimise expenses for each party. Defended divorces, however, are rare.
In a trial separation, the couple are not legally divorced and instead agree to live separate lives. This is based on an informal agreement. As such, each trial separation will be different between spouses.
Of course, there will be many factors to take into account during any separation including children, the house and money. Because of these elements, many couples find it difficult to negotiate a fair decision without the court’s help. It’s also worth noting that trial separation arrangements will be taken into account if a full divorce is filed at a later date.
If you and your partner agree on a trial separation, you will still need to inform certain services of this decision. This includes:
- HM Revenue & Customs for tax credits
- Your local council
- Your benefits office.
Annulments can be attained if for any reason your marriage is deemed invalid. An annulment can be filed by presenting a Nullity Petition.
For any marriage to be successfully annulled, the application must be made within a certain period of time – Usually up to three years. This is one area where an annulment differs to a full divorce – You do not have to be married for at least one year.
There are various reasons to apply for an annulment to your marriage and these include:
- If the marriage has not been consummated
- Either spouse was already married
- Either spouse had an STI the other was not aware of
- Your spouse was pregnant with someone else’s child at the time of the marriage and you were unaware.
A legal separation is an agreed separation between couples wanting to live apart. This is often agreed before a full divorce is filed. All matters are discussed legally and issues such as finances, property and children are resolved.
This way, both parties will be fully aware of what is happening and can go to court if the details are changed. If considering legal separation, you should always seek the help of a solicitor.
There is also a judicial separation, which although rare, can still happen in the UK. This is an order from the divorce county court and the couple will live separately, under the same terms as a divorce. These separations are usually reserved for those who have strong moral or religious objections to a full divorce.
Legal Reasons For A Divorce
Thousands of divorces are granted each year, but every one is only decided upon with certain evidence provided to the court. Essentially, it is your responsibility to prove the marriage no longer exists on a permanent basis.
You can only do this by relying on at least one of the five legal facts:
- The respondent’s unreasonable behavior
- The respondent has committed adultery
- Your partner deserting you at least two years ago
- Both parties living separately for at least two years, when the respondent consents to the divorce
- A period of separation of five years or more.
Unreasonable behaviour is on the basis that the respondent has caused the marriage to breakdown through their actions.
Unreasonable behaviour is the umbrella term used to cover a number of reasons, including violence, mental or physical cruelty and abuse. Other issues in this bracket include controlling behaviour (such as preventing a partner leaving the house or speaking to friends).
If either party dispute there has been any unreasonable behaviour, it is the responsibility of the petitioner to provide valid evidence to the court. In these circumstances, evidence can include witness statements and medical notes.
Adultery accounts for around one in seven divorces. As you would expect, adultery is the respondent having an extra-marital sexual relationship and the marriage no longer being viable. For adultery divorces to be filed, a decision must be made that the couple can no longer live together within six months of the adultery.
A certain amount of evidence is also required to prove the adultery occurred and the court will need information such as times and places. A divorce will only be approved if the court is fully satisfied adultery has been committed (usually by the respondent admitting it) and caused the marriage to breakdown irreparably.
If the divorce is uncontested on the account of adultery, only statements and details are required. If the respondent denies adultery, proof will be needed. It’s worth noting this can be difficult to find and costly too.
Desertion is filed for on the basis of the respondent leaving for a continuous period of two years. This can be difficult to prove though and does present problems in court if the respondent decides to dispute the case.
An intention to desert can also be proved, if for instance your partner says they’re leaving you before walking out. On the other hand, if they work continuously abroad for two years, desertion can be more difficult to verify.
In the second instance, a divorce could be applied for on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. In this case, your spouse has left for an overseas job without consulting you.
As a result, very few divorces are sought for desertion. Instead, the petitioner often seeks different grounds in which to file for a divorce.
Similar to above, but this is a mutual separation of at least two years. The court will accept this as satisfactory reason for the marriage to come to an end, but requires both parties’ consent.
If you and your spouse have been separated for a five-year period, you can also file for divorce without the consent of the other party. Your partner may dispute the divorce, but this is likely to be refused by the courts.
The Full Divorce Process
The length of the divorce process will also depend on whether it’s defended or uncontested. In general it takes between four and six months for a divorce to be completed.
Applying For A Divorce
To begin divorce proceedings you will need to complete the relevant forms. This can be collected from court or attained online at www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk
Both the court and website will offer more information such as the correct forms to complete, but be aware staff will not be in a position to provide legal advice and help. For any legal assistance in completing the forms, contact your solicitor or speak to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. It is advisable to instruct a solicitor to prepare the forms on your behalf as any mistakes made in preparation cannot be easily rectified without legal knowledge.
If the divorce is uncontested (you both agree), the court will grant a decree nisi, as long as the reasons for divorce are valid. Once the decree nisi has been granted, there will be at least a six-week waiting time to apply for the decree absolute, which finalises the divorce.
This six-week time period can be used for either party to object to the divorce and submit their objections to the court.
In some cases it can take longer for the divorce to be finalised with a decree absolute when there are financial matters to be resolved in the divorce process, the divorce can take considerably longer.
The courts will only grant a decree absolute when they are suitably assured childcare arrangements have been made.
The petitioner will submit the relevant court paperwork as before, but this time the respondent will also be required to complete court papers. In this documentation they’ll explain why a divorce should not be considered.
In these circumstances, there could be a court hearing, for a judge to determine if a marriage has broken down, but in the majority of cases the issue will be resolved outside of court.
Step-By-Step Divorce Procedure
The graphic below highlights the step-by-step process of a typical divorce. Each divorce is different, but this should give you a general idea of what’s ahead if you’re planning, or have filed for, a divorce.
Each divorce case will account for a different cost and much of this comes down to your solicitor and their approach to fees.
However, there are some cast iron costs – namely what you’ll pay to the courts to process your divorce. For simply submitting the petition for divorce and starting proceedings, you’ll pay a fee of £550. This cost includes the decree absolute and must be paid even if you are not using a solicitor. If a solicitor is involved, additional fees will be added to your total (with these likely to reach the region of over £1,000).
On top of this fixed sum, if you instruct a solicitor need to pay the solicitor’s legal costs. Many solicitors offer a fixed fee for their full service, which will include dealing with the court.
Splitting of assets
Once your divorce has been finalised, your assets will be split between you and your ex-partner. But it isn’t as simple as cutting things straight down the middle. The process takes careful evaluation from the court – and preferably cooperation from both parties involved.
Coming to an agreement
If you’re able to reach an amicable agreement on your own, the process will be considerably simpler. In fact, if you’re on good enough terms, things may never reach the courtroom. It all depends on how binding you want the split to be.
If you’re happy to agree amongst yourselves, you can do so – but it won’t be legally binding. This means if someone changes their mind at a later date, you could run into further issues.
In order for things to become official, a consent order is required. This is where a solicitor steps in and completes a series of paperwork to determine how you’ll split the following assets:
- Saved funds
At this point, a court will be asked to approve the order. For this to be legally processed, you and your ex-partner will both have to fill in:
- A notice of an application for a financial order
- A statement of information form
The entire process is a relatively simple one, and will cost you a further £50 in court fees. This figure will rise once the price of a solicitor or legal expert has been factored in. They’ll be needed to either prepare a consent order or represent a client on a financial application.
Failing to agree
Sadly, in some cases it won’t be possible for both parties to come to an agreement. If this is the situation, you’ll be forced to apply for a court-governed financial order. This gives a judge the power to decide how your assets will be split, based on the needs of both parties. The aim is to achieve a fair solution which will enable you both to move on financially.
The court will then step up and make a call on financial payments such as:
- Property ownership
- Regular maintenance payments
- Lump sums
- A share of your partner’s pension
This process costs £255 in court fees (prices will again rise as a result of legal costs), and at this point you could be waiting for as long as six months to a year before you have a solution.
Once the power is handed to the courts, they’ll make the decision to split assets based on a number of different factors. The most prevalent include:
- The age of both parties involved
- How much property and money each has
- Their ability to earn individually
- The standard of living for both parties
- The role they undertook in the relationship
Usually, if there is a child involved, the judge will assess how they’re going to be affected and make this their primary focal point.
It’s not uncommon for the court to also encourage the person with the higher income in the relationship to make regular maintenance payments to support their ex-partner’s living costs. This can change if the financial situation of one of the parties involved changes during the period where maintenance payments are set to be made.
The stress of a divorce can be overwhelming but it’s also important to consider your children and how they’re finding the situation. Especially with younger children it’s important to explain that both parents do love and care for them, despite whatever marital problems have developed.
When it comes to the care of children after a divorce, most parents do agree on the right course of action. What seems to crop up more often is the factor of financial support. The court believes arrangements made between parents are better than rules enforced by law.
What does the law say?
The Children’s Act 1989 says that the welfare of the children is the courts paramount consideration. If married, both parents have a responsibility for the child in the eyes of the law. If a couple were unmarried at the time of birth, a father does not receive automatic parental responsibility. This can instead be applied for and agreed with the child’s mother.
More children are being born to unmarried parents now than ever before – around 40% of children in fact. Unless acquired, the father does not receive automatic parental responsibility, unless they are named on the child’s birth certificate or acquired in other ways.
Parental responsibility, in essence, ensures both parents are equally responsible for the child. This would include:
- The protection and upbringing of the child
- Choosing a school and ensuring they attend from 5-16
- Applying for passports
- Ensuring they receive medical treatment
- Representing the child.
Financial support is required even if there is no contact between father (or mother) and child.
Financial support can be agreed between parents. However, if the parties are unable to agree, the parent with care of the child can apply to the child maintenance child.
Mediation is often used in divorces to help couples come to an agreement on how assets will be split. A mediator is trained to listen to both parties and help come to a suitable settlement between the two. A mediator will also help in disputes such as where a child will live, considering financial implications. Mediation is now compulsory before making a financial or children application except in exceptional circumstances.
Who Gets Care Of The Child?
For any court application relating to a child, the courts paramount consideration is the welfare of the child. There are many factors that can and will be taken into consideration if the parents don’t decide on the right course of action. These include:
- The child’s wishes and feelings. The older the child, the more this will come into consideration.
- The child’s requirements. This includes physical, emotional and educational needs. An example would be the child living with a parent near their school.
- The effect on the child. The court will want to minimise disturbance on the child’s lifestyle.
- Domestic abuse. If the child is at risk of domestic abuse, this will be considered.
- The parent’s capabilities. Is the parent able to care for the child? Drink or drug abuse would be taken into account.
Mediation is the starting point before making any application for a Child Arrangements Order, Specific Issue or Prohibited Steps Order. The only time this is not the case is in exceptional circumstances, such as where you believe the child may be at risk. In these instances it is important to take legal advice as a matter of urgency in order to protect the child’s welfare.
UK Divorce Statistics
Figures on UK divorces have been up and down over the years, but there’s no doubt about it – divorces are more popular now than when first recorded in the mid 1900s. The Office for National Statistics also show there was a total of 118,140 divorces in 2012 – up 0.5% on 2011 figures.
The information, acquired by The Guardian, shows how divorces have increased astronomically over the years, since the first recording in 1950. At this time there were just over 30,000 divorces annually.
In fact, it was only from 1972 when divorces surged in popularity – rising from 74,000 to 119,000 between 1971 and 1972. Divorces then peaked in volume between 1985 and 1995.
Back to 2012 statistics though, and figures highlight a divorce is more common in the first 10 years of marriage. More often than not, a divorce was filed between the fourth and eighth-year anniversary.
- In 2012 there were 13 divorces every hour
- Only 15,000 divorces were filed from people aged over 60
- One in seven divorces were filed for adultery
- The average age for divorce is 45 (men) & 42 (women)
- 9% of divorcees had been through the process before
- 48% of those divorced had at least one child under 16
- Statistics suggest 42% of all marriages will end in divorce.
|Year||Total Divorces||Median Age of Husband||Median Age of Wife|
If I married abroad, can an English court grant me a divorce?
Yes. It doesn’t matter where you were married, as long as it is a legal marriage.
Can I sort out financial issues before I officially divorce my spouse?
Yes, this is possible. If you want to organise the financial side of things prior to a split, you’ll need to negotiate a separation agreement. It’s important to get legal advice for something like this. You’ll both need to be open and honest about your financial situation
How long will my divorce take?
A straightforward divorce process could take anywhere between six to eight months. This time period will take considerably longer if the parties involved find themselves unable to come to an agreement. This is usually as a result of waiting on a financial order. In some cases, it’s possible to get divorced prior to this being settled.
Can my partner and I change our minds and stop the divorce going through?
You can stop the divorce from going through at any point in the process. Until the decree absolute is made, you are still legally married. Before then, you have the option to cancel things at any moment.
How can I find out if I am eligible for financial help with divorce fees?
If you are on a low income, you may be eligible for support from the court. If you’re receiving working tax credit, child tax credit or income support, you may be entitled to either a full or partial exemption from the court fee.
Do I need a solicitor to manage my divorce?
You can carry out your divorce without a solicitor, but it isn’t recommended as without an expert, you run the risk of facing further issues down the line if someone changes their mind or there are disagreements.
- Gov.uk break down how the court splits assets and property after a divorce
- The Money Advice Service take a more in-depth look at costs of a divorce or dissolution across the UK
- Wikivorce look at the benefits and purpose of agreeing a consent order after a divorce
- Pinnington Law break down what happens to your pension after a divorce
- Law Donut provide a free guide to help better understand the legal process surrounding a divorce
- The Guardian’s divorce section provides you with regular updates about the sector
- Advicenow offer a guide for getting out of financial hardships during and after a divorce