Q: My estranged husband and I are considering divorce but I am worried that I won’t be able to afford the process. What costs should I expect?
The divorce process doesn’t need to be costly; if you are prepared to discuss and settle matters between you and obtain effective legal advice, the financial impact can be kept to a minimum.
The government has recently announced that court fees to start a divorce are to increase by £140 later this year, from £410 to £550. Some assistance is offered by the courts; if you are in receipt of benefits or on a low income, you can apply for a fee remission which will exempt you from, or reduce your payment of, the fees. If you are considering seeking a divorce, you may wish to start proceedings now before the fees are increased.
McCarthy Bennett Holland offers a fixed-fee divorce service, provided that the divorce is not contested by your spouse. We keep the costs for a petitioner, ie. if you are the party commencing divorce proceedings, in the region of £500 + VAT and for respondents fees are around £200 + VAT.
Many of the costs involved in the divorce process stem from negotiating the financial settlement between you. Financial disputes differ greatly and costs can range significantly, from around £500 to £5,000 + VAT – and more. If matters can be discussed and resolved between you and legal representatives’ involvement kept to a minimum, you will reduce your costs to a much more manageable level. If you intend to negotiate your own financial settlement, ensure that you are both aware of all assets owned by each of you and jointly beforehand.
Where the financial settlement has been agreed between the parties beforehand, whether in private or through a mediation process, solicitors can prepare the ‘Clean Break Order’ on a fixed fee basis. MBH can deal with a Clean Break Order for fees of around £400 + VAT, plus the Court fee of £50 which is usually shared between the parties.
The Order ensures that no further financial claims can be brought in future by either party and you can move on knowing that all matters are finalised and settled. Without a Clean Break Order, one spouse could make a claim many years down the line for financial support; in one case which made the headlines this year, a former wife successfully pursued her millionaire ex-husband for substantial financial support after it emerged that, whilst they had divorced, they had never concluded their financial agreement.
If you are unable to reach agreement between yourselves, solicitors will deal with reaching financial settlement through negotiation and voluntary disclosure, requiring both parties to exchange all financial information including bank statements, asset values and so on.
As a last resort, the Court can make an order in respect of the financial agreement; this usually proves considerably more costly. The Court will order that information is disclosed between the parties and, generally, a minimum of two hearings will follow. In most cases, matters are agreed after the second hearing at which the Judge will direct how the case should settle. Occasionally, a third hearing is required at which both parties give evidence to the Court and the Judge makes a final Order.
It is now compulsory for parties to enter into mediation before any application can be made to the Court for a financial Order in a divorce. The mediation process enables both parties to either meet face-to-face or in separate rooms to discuss and reach a decision with the assistance of a trained mediator. Public funding (‘Legal Aid’) is still available for mediation where parties are in receipt of low incomes or benefits. Whether you are entitled to Legal Aid or not, mediation often proves a cheaper and quicker resolution to reaching a financial settlement than negotiation through solicitors or the Court.
Throughout the divorce process, both parties must take their children into consideration and ensure that sufficient provision is made for them. The Child Maintenance Service’s online calculator is a useful tool to provide an indication as to how much child support you or your spouse should pay. Child maintenance is dealt with separately from the main divorce or financial proceedings.
Whilst we have given an indication of our fees for dealing with your divorce, a tailored quote based on the specific facts and circumstances of your case will be supplied once you have formally instructed us.
McCarthy Bennett Holland offers FREE 30-minute, no-obligation, initial appointments for all family and matrimonial cases. To arrange yours, contact family & matrimonial specialist Gillian Lavelle on 01942 206060.
McCarthy Bennett Holland, established in Wigan since 1971, offers a personal service across a wide range of legal practice areas, including residential and commercial property, family and matrimonial, wills and probate, employment, personal injury and company commercial.
Contact Gillian Lavelle, solicitor at MBH Solicitors, to discuss your family & matrimonial requirements in confidence at:
Tel: 01942 206060
Address: 26 Bridgeman Terrace, Wigan WN1 1TD
Find Gillian on Facebook: “McCarthy Bennett Holland – family solicitor”