Ending a relationship is painful enough, without having to worry about the expense of the divorce and resolving financial issues. In today’s economic climate, people simply cannot afford to spend the equivalent of a house deposit on legal fees. In this article we will set out the alternative options to reduce legal costs and to divorce without a lawyer.
Traditionally the usual way of dealing with a divorce or dissolution was to use a Solicitor or Barrister. This would normally involve taking time off from work to meet with a Solicitor who would charge by the hour, bill in 6-minute units for each letter and telephone call, ask for a retainer and deliver monthly bills. Today this is one of the most expensive ways to end your relationship. According to MoneyHelper the average UK divorce costs £14,561 per person. The figure includes the process of getting the divorce, dividing assets, splitting pensions, and managing joint bank accounts. For a couple struggling with relationship and financial issues, this expense is simply not affordable.
Another pitfall of using a lawyer is that they can make an already emotionally bad situation worse. If either or both parties instructs an aggressive lawyer who is determined to fight every issue on behalf of their client, this can lead to an unpleasant divorce where feelings of acrimony, anger, resentment and legal costs will only increase. It is also unnecessary.
Following the introduction of no-fault divorce, most divorces today are administrative and can be done online. You do not need to pay for an expensive Solicitor to do standard paperwork or correspond with the Court. Your money is better spent to resolve other important issues such as the division of finances or arrangements for children in a more amicable, cost-effective way.
In using the term “divorce”, we also include the dissolution of civil partnerships and use the term to cover everything from ending the relationship, making arrangements for any children, to the division of finances.
Below are different options to divorce without lawyers:
DIY (do-it-yourself) divorce or dissolution
A DIY divorce or dissolution is where you and your ex-partner agree to divorce without a lawyer or with little or no help from a lawyer. A DIY divorce without a lawyer means that you are responsible for drafting the legal paperwork, filing it at Court and dealing with all the correspondence. This can be done online by visiting the GOV.UK website.
Anyone can opt for a divorce without a lawyer, but that does not mean it is right for everyone. Before embarking on a divorce without lawyers, you should consider the following:
- Although the legal process for obtaining a divorce/dissolution is far simpler than before, a divorce without a lawyer will still entail many hours of completing forms, communicating with your ex, and phone calls and correspondence to and from the Court. This can be stressful.
- People often think that the divorce process automatically resolves any financial issues or potential financial claims. This is wrong. Separate steps must be taken to resolve financial matters and ensure financial protection for the future. Without taking separate steps to resolve financial matters arising from the divorce/dissolution, it is very easy to leave yourself vulnerable to financial claims in the future, or missing out on financial claims you may be entitled to such as pensions. To resolve financial issues, it is strongly advisable to seek specialist help.
A divorce without a lawyer will cost you the Court fee for the Divorce Application of £593. You may receive help paying Court and tribunal fees if you are on a low income or receiving certain state benefits. The link from the UK Government website will explain the criteria for eligibility.
Family Mediation is faster, more cost and less stressful than going through the Courts to deal with financial matters. It can help you and your ex-partner agree on how to divide your assets, including:
- how to deal with debts
At the end of mediation, you will receive a document recording what you agreed in mediation. It is however IMPORTANT to be aware that the agreement reached in mediation is not legally binding and you will still need lawyers to draft a Consent Order to incorporate what was agreed in mediation, and get a Court to approve the Consent Order.
Mediation costs vary across the UK with big differences based on where you live, the mediators experience and the quality of service. You can expect to pay anywhere from £150 to £500 per hour for mediation. On average, a couple mediating about children and/or financial issues can expect to have 3-4 mediation appointments.
It is common for both sides to pay an equal share in mediation costs. The mediator will usually invoice each person individually rather than creating a joint bill.
As explained above, in addition to the cost of mediation, you will also need to pay for a Solicitor or other legal professional to incorporate the agreement reached in mediation into a legally binding document called a Consent Order. This will mean an extra cost.
Use an Alternative Legal Service Provider
An Alternative Legal Service Provider or ALSP offers a modern, innovative, and cost-effective solution that supports the legal needs of their clients. They provide value for money and specialised legal services that complement or, in some cases, replace the previous traditional approaches.
An alternative legal service provider is not, and does not pretend to be a firm of Solicitors. An ALSP is a legal service business that provides one or more services that law firms or Solicitors would traditionally offer, but in a different way, often at a far lower cost.
Some legal services are ‘reserved activities’ and can only be carried out by regulated professionals such as Solicitors or Barristers. These include the conduct of litigation, the right to appear before and address a court, dealing with the transfer of land or property, and taking oaths and swearing affidavits. The provision of legal advice or assistance in relation to divorce or family law is not a reserved activity. As ALSP’s do not usually conduct reserved activities such as litigation, they can offer their clients greater value for money, expertise, innovation, and a less contentious experience.
The benefits of working with an ALSP are lower rates than a traditional law firm, specialisation, and the use of technology.
We are a ALSP and we strongly believe that everyone should have access to the best legal help regardless of their income or financial situation. That is why we started the Divorce & Family Law Specialists.
Unlike the traditional law firm, we do not ask for retainers (money on account), charge in 6-minute units for each letter or telephone call, use hourly rates, or deliver monthly bills. All our fees are fixed cost so you know from the start what you will be paying.
We are experts in Divorce and Family Law. We have over 30 years of experience in dealing with divorce and family law as legal professionals with backgrounds as Solicitors, Mediators and Collaborative lawyers.
We are similar to mediation in that we work with couples jointly to help them reach a better and more amicable and cost-effective way to end their relationship without competing lawyers, and conflict. We can help couples with the following:
- All the same issues as in mediation.
- Agreeing the terms of cohabitation if you plan to start living together.
- Negotiations to help you achieve a fair financial split if you are ending your relationship.
- Agreement as to the terms of your separation, divorce, or dissolution of civil partnership.
- Co-parenting issues.
- Maintenance issues.
Our main difference to mediation is that we provide joint legal advice to the both of you on a joint beneficial basis, and we offer a fully inclusive service which means we can also prepare all the legal documents for you, such as the Consent Order once an agreement is reached.
Our services range from £200 for a straightforward divorce, to our most comprehensive service which includes the divorce process, full legal advice and assistance during financial negotiations which take place over 6 one-hour sessions with a Family Law Specialist and the drafting of all legal documentation. This is charged at £2900 for a couple.
In family arbitration you and your partner appoint an arbitrator, who will make a decision that will be final and binding between the parties, on any financial and property disputes arising from family relationships. The decision they come to is legally binding and you cannot appeal or disregard it once you have agreed to the arbitration process.
Family arbitration enables couples going through family breakdown to resolve disputes more quickly, confidentially and in a more flexible and less formal setting than a courtroom. It is like having a private court hearing where the family arbitrator will ensure that relevant facts and evidence are collected and make a final and binding decision based on this information. It is a good alternative to starting Court proceedings, where you wish a third party to make a final decision.
The same arbitrator will deal with all stages of the case from start to finish and you and your partner have the major say in how the proceedings are run. This could include, for example, choosing the venue, whether to meet face to face or through writing only, or whether to use the arbitrator for the whole process or just parts of it that you are stuck on.
Costs for family arbitration range from approximately £1500 – £3000 plus VAT per person for the arbitrator’s time. In addition, there may be costs associated with the venue and sundry expenses.
Going to Court
Sometimes it may be necessary to apply to Court for a financial order. This should always be the last resort. This could be in cases where there is abuse or where one party is hiding assets. Going to Court is by far the most expensive, least predictable, time consuming and contentious way to end a relationship, and should be avoided if at all possible.
If a case proceeds to a final hearing and you are represented at Court by a Solicitor or Barrister, you can each expect to pay in the region of £20,000 plus VAT for a financial order.
Frequently asked questions
Can you get a divorce without a lawyer
There is no legal requirement to have a lawyer (Solicitor) to commence divorce or dissolution proceedings. Divorce and family law matters are not legal services that can only be conducted by Solicitors or Barristers as they are not reserved activities.
Since the introduction of no-fault divorce, it is now far easier to divorce without a lawyer. Most divorces are administrative and can be done online without having to pay for a lawyer.
How much is divorce court fee UK?
The court fee currently for a Divorce Application is £593.
How much is a no-fault divorce UK?
If you decide to divorce without a lawyer and do all the work yourself, the only cost you will incur for the divorce is the Court fee. As stated above an application for divorce or dissolution DOES NOT automatically resolve financial matters.
This is a separate issue and specialist advice should be taken.
How can I keep my divorce costs down?
You can keep your costs down by dealing with the administrative side of the divorce yourself. You should however be aware that it will involve correspondence and many telephone calls. A hassle free option is to pay a small fee and have someone like us professional draft the Court documents for you and advise you along the way.
What are the benefits of a DIY Divorce?
- Cost-effective as you only have the Court fee to pay and no expensive legal fees.
- You are in control of the process and you make decisions on your own terms.
- Simplicity and convenience.
What are the risks of a DIY divorce?
- Possibility for mistakes – Without legal expertise and professional guidance, there is a risk of errors in the legal paperwork which may cause complications, delays, increased costs or rejection of the legal documents.
- Stress – Dealing with a divorce on your own can be stressful, confusing and time consuming.
Can I start divorce proceedings without a lawyer?
There is no legal requirement to have a lawyer to start a divorce. Anyone can start proceedings to end their marriage or civil partnership online, via GOV.UK. To apply online, you will need to answer a series of questions and upload a photo of your marriage certificate or send it by post to the court, if you cannot upload it. You also need to pay the court fee.
Can I divorce my husband without his agreement?
Yes, it is only necessary for one party to a divorce or dissolution to consider the relationship to have irretrievably broken down. The options under the new divorce law to contest a divorce are now very limited.
Is it quicker and cheaper to divorce cost after 2 years separation?
It is no longer necessary to be separated for a set period of time to get divorced. As long as you have been married for 12 months or longer it is now possible to divorce on a no-fault ground without having to prove fault or time living apart.
Can I still divorce based on a spouse’s adultery or behaviour?
Yes and no. You can still use someone’s adultery or behaviour as the reason why you consider the marriage to have irretrievably broken down, but you cannot specifically provide details of the adultery or behaviour as a ground for divorce under no-fault divorce.
Will I have to go to court to get a divorce or dissolution?
No. The entire process is done online or by correspondence and you will not have to attend any Court hearings for the divorce.
How much is a divorce?
For a straightforward divorce we only charge £200 including VAT plus Court fees. Depending on who you use the cost can vary from £200 to £1000 for a divorce only.