How much does divorce or dissolution cost?

Money Advice Service

If you’re divorcing or dissolving your civil partnership, you’ll want to know how much it’s likely to cost. Some costs, such as court fees, are fixed. Others, such as legal fees, will depend on how much legal advice you take and what the solicitor charges. You may be able to get help with the costs.

How much are court fees?

If you’re getting divorced or dissolving your civil partnership, you or your ex-partner (husband, wife or civil partner) will have to pay court fees.

You have to pay them whether you sort out the divorce or dissolution yourself or use a solicitor to help you.

Court fees vary depending on where in the UK you divorce or dissolve your civil partnership. The main ones are listed below, but you might have to pay others.

Court fees in England and Wales

These include:

  • court fee to file for your divorce or dissolution – £550
  • court fee to file for judicial separation – £365 (used if you don’t want to end your marriage or civil partnership, perhaps for religious reasons)
  • application for a consent order – £100 (a legal document that records and makes legally binding the financial arrangements you’ve agreed between you)
  • application for a financial order – £255 (an application for the courts to decide how your finances should be divided, when you haven’t reached agreement).

Court fees in Scotland

In Scotland, there are two ways to get a divorce:

  • the simplified procedure, also known as a DIY divorce
  • the ordinary procedure.

The fees you pay will depend on which procedure you are using.

These include:

  • fee for the ‘minute for decree’ (the legal term for the document finalising the divorce) – £49
  • application for an ‘ordinary’ divorce or dissolution where the ‘simplified’ procedure cannot be used – £156 in a sheriff court or £173 in the Court of Session
  • application for a ‘simplified’ divorce or dissolution – £113 (Sheriff Court) or £131 (Court of Session) – you might be able to use this procedure if you don’t have children under the age of 16 and you and your ex-partner aren’t claiming a lump sum or ongoing payments from each other.

Court fees in Northern Ireland

These include:

  • court fee to file for your divorce or dissolution – £249
  • filing for a decree absolute or final – £93 (this says your divorce or dissolution is finalised)
  • applying for a court hearing – £373 in the High Court or £311 in a County Court (if your divorce or dissolution is contested, only the High Court can deal with it)
  • application for ancillary relief (this is for ongoing payments or a share in the property or possessions you own) – £373 in the High Court and £296 in a County Court.

Help with paying court fees

You might be able to get help with paying court fees if you are on certain benefits or if you have savings and income below a certain amount.

In Scotland, you can find information about help with court fees on the Scottish Courts website.

In Northern Ireland, you have to fill in a form called ER1 (PDF 89KB) for help with court fees.

Most solicitors offer a fixed-fee divorce or dissolution service, but can also charge by the hour.

The amount you will have to pay will depend on how much work the solicitor has to do for you.

You can cap fees or cap the work you want your solicitor to do. Try to agree in advance how much email or telephone contact you would like.

Solicitor (charging hourly rate): Total costs range from £2,000 to £3,000 for a negotiated financial settlement and up to £30,000 plus VAT or more for a financial application that goes all the way to a contested final court hearing. Costs will depend on whether you are trying to decide on care and support for your children, or to sort out your finances, or both. It will also depend on how much you and your ex-partner can agree between you and how complicated your circumstances are.

Solicitor (charging fixed fee): Total costs for drawing up a consent order after an uncontested financial settlement could start at £250 plus VAT, with court fees on top of this depending on what you agree with your solicitor. This will not include negotiating how complex assets (such as a pension) should be divided or extra work if you and your ex-partner can’t agree a settlement.

Collaborative family lawyer: Costs can be hard to estimate but could be from £8,000 to £15,000.

Online divorce or dissolution service: Total costs of up to £400 if your divorce or dissolution is managed by a solicitor. Between £40 and £200 if a solicitor isn’t involved in the process, plus you will need to pay court fees. You should check whether the service will cover just the divorce or dissolution paperwork or the financial settlement as well.

Mediator: Mediators typically charge from £100 an hour. Most couples have between three and four sessions.

Most separating couples take legal advice alongside mediation.

You can no longer get legal aid to pay your solicitor’s costs unless there is evidence of domestic violence or child abduction is involved. However, you might still be able to get legal aid to help pay mediation costs.

Check if you are eligible for legal aid on the GOV.UK website.

Legal aid might be available to pay towards the legal costs of divorce or dissolution.

You will be assessed on the basis of how much income and savings, investments and valuables you have (not including your main home).

In Northern Ireland, solicitors are responsible for calculating whether you qualify for legal aid.

You can check if you are eligible for legal aid in Scotland on the Scottish Legal Aid Board website.

Your next step

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.

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