Generally speaking, the person wanting a divorce will be the one paying the initial court fees. In the UK this is currently £593. However, if you are making a joint application with your former spouse, then both parties will pay. The latter is what usually happens in divorce. But what if there is a dispute on fees and what if you cannot afford to pay? We look in more detail at the costs you can expect to pay and the support you may be entitled to.
Can I claim costs from the other party?
Ideally both parties will agree on costs before the divorce. However, it is usually the person who is making the application who pays. It is possible to request the courts to order that your former partner shares the court fees or that all costs are equally split. Note, this is a separate application and courts have the power to enforce this if it is not paid.
When considering a Costs Order, the courts will look at what the claimant is asking for is reasonable, and they will also look at the nature of the divorce i.e., whether there is acrimony or conflict or whether it has been a civil process. In some cases, further fees may apply if there are disruptions to the proceedings, for example, if one party has not completed certain forms and documents and this has delayed matters.
When there is a failure of payment
If the other party fails to pay the required fee, then costs could rise for both applicants and this may also result in delays to procedures. This is again, a good reason to ensure costs are agreed on before making an application.
- Legal fees support
For people on a low income, or those who receive benefits such as Universal Credit, Housing Benefit or other state benefits, it is possible to apply for financial support on court fees. To do this, you will need to fill in an EX160 form and you will need to show evidence that you qualify for legal aid. If you are homeless or at risk of losing your home, you are facing prison, or if you are being discriminated against you may be able to acquire financial support. Similarly, if you or your children have experienced or are experiencing domestic abuse, or have entered into a forced marriage then you may also be eligible for legal aid. A lot of these routes do not eliminate costs, but aim to reduce them.
- How to reduce your costs
In many cases, divorce will result in a difference to your overall financial circumstances. Not only will you need to pay fees, but you will also potentially experience a loss in the quality of living you previously had when you were married. You may also have to pay a financial settlement to your ex or child maintenance payments following your divorce.
Before you begin the process, gain a firm idea of all of your joint assets and calculate child maintenance to give you an idea of your future financial situation and what you can legitimately do to mitigate costs. Although court fees are not the biggest part of your divorce bill, agreeing on who is paying what will help.
Also, consider what kind of support you need from a solicitor. In some cases, it could be cheaper to apply for the divorce yourself online, however, in some instances going it alone with your divorce could be a financial mistake. Solicitors may advise you more clearly on what you are entitled to and help you gain the maximum from a financial order. It is worthwhile gaining an initial (and usually free) consultation with a family lawyer as this will help you better understand your financial position and make decisions on how best to proceed.