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How to get an inexpensive divorce

Ending a marriage or civil partnership is unpleasant enough without also having to worry about the cost. Fortunately, advances in the law and the modernisation of legal services have made getting an inexpensive divorce easier.

The post pandemic world and cost of living crisis has permanently changed how clients’ expect to receive legal services. Since COVID legal services have now become more accessible, faster, and virtual. Clients now have more choice and are able to receive legal services online at their convenience at any time or in any place. Client meetings that used to take place in person at an office, now take place online. Clients now expect to receive value for money and a better way to end their relationship.

Here are our tips to achieve a more cost-effective way to divorce or dissolve your civil partnership:

Consider alternative legal services.

Five years ago, to start a divorce you would have probably visited a local 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. Things have moved on.

Alternative legal service providers, often referred to as ALSPs, offer 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. The traditional model of instructing a Solicitor to handle legal matters is no longer the only option. 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. Today modern alternatives exist such as Do It Yourself Divorce (DIY), Fixed Cost Divorce and Pay As You Go services. All of these offer more cost-effective ways to end a relationship.

We started The Divorce and Family Law Specialists as an alternative service provider precisely for that reason. We are committed that everyone should have access to the best legal help regardless of their income or financial situation. We believe there is a better way to resolve divorce and family law matters without resorting to expensive court battles where often the only winners are the lawyers. We work jointly with couples to help them reach a better and more amicable and cost-effective way to end their relationship without going to Court and conflict.

Our services range from handling your divorce only, to a full service where we help you to end your relationship, resolve financial and/or children matters and then finalise the agreement into a binding legal document.

Receive joint legal advice.

Joint divorce legal advice provides an inexpensive, less adversarial, and quicker solution for couples wishing to end their relationship.

Traditionally, when a couple went through a divorce, each party would instruct their own lawyers who would advise them accordingly. This sometimes led to a battle between competing lawyers as they fought to get the best outcome for their client based on their interpretation of the law.

Following a 2020 case, Mr Justice Mostyn declared that there was no conflict of interest for one legal adviser to act for both parties as long as there was a common interest or a shared objective.

Joint divorce legal advice is guidance, support and advice on the law given by one person to a couple who want to end their relationship amicably and without conflict. The advice is given to the couple on a jointly beneficial basis to assist them to find the best way to end their relationship and help resolve children and/or financial matters. Joint divorce legal advice can be used if a couple wish to separate, divorce, or dissolve their civil partnership. It can help them decide the terms of how and when the relationship will end and make arrangements about finances and for children.

As specialists in divorce and family law with backgrounds as Solicitors, Mediators and Collaborative Lawyers we offer couples a solution focused approach based on their objectives. Using over 30 years of experience in divorce and family law, we advise clients jointly as to how the law applies to their situation, the full range of options available to them, and how we consider a Court is likely to approach their matter. Our aim is to provide clients with the tools and information they need to be able to make informed decisions so they can end their relationship as painlessly, and economically as possible.

We assist clients with completing their financial disclosure and support them in any questions or concerns they may have during the process. If we feel that a Court is unlikely to approve any financial agreement reached between the couple, we will inform them of this and work with them to find a workable solution that will be approved by a Court.

Decide to end your relationship amicably.

A significant step to achieving an inexpensive divorce is to decide to end your relationship amicably. An amicable divorce or dissolution is where a couple agrees to end their relationship without acrimony or resentment, but in an environment of mutual respect and dignity.

It is estimated that spouses or partners who cannot agree on how assets should be divided following a relationship breakdown can expect to spend an average of £14,500 each in instructing solicitors to reach a financial settlement. This can increase to £30,000 each if a contested case ends up in Court and a Judge decides. As an amicable divorce focuses on reducing conflict, it is a more cost-effective solution for couples wishing to resolve the issues arising from the end of their relationship.

The benefits of an amicable divorce are:

  • It is far more cost effective – You are not each instructing your own lawyers to battle against each other. Instead, you are using one legal professional to help you find solutions you can both live with – meaning only one cost and vastly reduced legal fees.
  • It is less stressful. You decide to resolve your differences productively and without conflict.
  • There is less uncertainty, and you are in control of your future. You do not have two sets of Solicitors or a Judge deciding YOUR future. With our help you decide a legal outcome that is fair for the both of you and your family.
  • It is far quicker and flexible than Court proceedings which can often take many years due to the strict Court timetable.
  • It is easier on children – Dealing with matters amicably is less stressful on everyone, including the children. Why? Because they don’t have to watch their parents fight or worry about the divorce proceedings. Couples who work through their divorce amicably are also more likely to successfully co-parent without arguments or other issues because they start off their co-parenting agreement on the right foot.

Agree to a joint divorce.

In April 2022, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 came into force, which reformed the divorce system in England and Wales. The main reforms were the removal of the ‘fault’ or blame element of the divorce process, and the introduction of the joint divorce application .

The joint divorce application now allows both parties to a marriage or civil partnership to jointly apply for a divorce/dissolution. As both parties complete the divorce application form it makes it easier for those who do not wish to instruct a solicitor each. A joint application also greatly simplifies matters and demonstrates that both parties agree to get a divorce and their relationship has irretrievably broken down. As both parties complete the application together, this removes the necessity for an Acknowledgement of Service form to be served and returned, which consequently saves on time and cost.

Do some of the leg work yourself.

Divorce today is much simpler and more of an online procedural exercise. Accordingly, if you wish to save costs, one option is to handle the administrative part of the divorce yourself. We can prepare all the Court forms for you such as the divorce application, but you would be responsible for sending the documents to the Court and checking up on the progress of your case. We are of course available to assist you at any time with any questions you may have.

Finalise finances.

Many people make the serious mistake of thinking that financial matters are automatically resolved upon divorce. This is incorrect. Unless you have a divorce financial settlement in place approved by the Court, then both parties’ financial claims are still alive, and may be claimed many years after the divorce.

In order to ensure financial matters arising from a relationship breakdown are concluded, it is necessary to make a separate application for a financial order. This can take place by way of the parties to a divorce or dissolution submitting a Consent Order following the reaching of an agreement, or through a Court hearing with a Judge deciding the outcome if agreement cannot be reached.

DIY divorces are fine for the divorce itself, but rarely for financial matters where you should take specialist advice. Not receiving expert legal advice regarding your options and rights following the end of your relationship could end up costing you more money in the future.

A Consent Order must be drafted in a specific form with all the necessary legal provisions to protect you and to prevent any future claims being made. Without expert knowledge it is very easy to draft an Order that may not provide all the legal protection you seek or have agreed.

The importance of finalising financial matters cannot be underestimated. In a recent case of HAT v LAT, Mr Justice Peel concluded that the absence of a Consent Order, and a 29-year delay in bringing a claim for financial remedies was not by itself a jurisdictional or procedural bar to a wife making a financial claim against her former husband.

Even if you have no assets – get a clean break Consent Order

Even if neither of you have any assets, you should always finalise financial matters by obtaining a clean break Consent Order. A clean break financial order is the simplest type of Consent Order that will cut any financial ties between you and your ex-spouse/partner now and in the future. A clean break Consent Order will provide you with a lifetime protection and peace of mind for a small cost.

Use the 20-week reflection period wisely. 

Another way to have an inexpensive divorce is to use the pockets of time in the divorce process wisely.

After the acknowledgement of service stage, a divorce/dissolution enters a 20-week waiting or (reflection period) before a couple can move on to the next stage.

The purpose of the 20-week reflection period in divorce is to give a couple the time to reflect on whether the marriage can be saved and whether there is the opportunity to effect a reconciliation. The 20-week period also allows time for the couple to address other issues such as finances or arrangements for children.

It is important to remember that a Final Order only brings a marriage or a civil partnership to an end, it does not deal with financial matters. These issues include the house you live in, shared assets and finances, debts, your financial needs, pensions, and arrangements for any children. It is usually these issues that cost the most money, not the divorce process itself.

This 20-week reflection period is the ideal time to begin dealing with financial matters and financial disclosure. Financial disclosure is the process where both parties provide details and supporting documents of their income, assets, liabilities, outgoings, and financial needs during a divorce, dissolution, or separation. Documentary evidence should include:

  • Mortgage statements
  • Valuations of properties
  • Wage slips/tax returns
  • Bank statements (both personal and business)
  • Pension valuations
  • Records of any savings or investments (e.g., ISAs)
  • Insurance policies
  • Evidence of inheritance (both previous and pending)
  • Details of any outstanding unsecured debts or tax liabilities.
  • 2 or 3 years of accounts if self-employed

The purpose of financial disclosure is to know the assets involved and their value. Without going through the process of financial disclosure, it is extremely difficult to know what the assets are, how to distribute them fairly to meet both parties needs, advise on settlement options, and know whether an agreed financial settlement is fair.

Significant time and costs can be saved by dealing with financial disclosure on a voluntary basis during the 20-week reflection period.

Think about co-parenting.

The 20-week reflection period is the best time to think about co-parenting arrangements after divorce. Co-parenting or shared parenting is when divorced or separated parents work together to raise their children, instead of acting independently as parents. Co-parenting requires collaboration and for parents to put aside their differences and to maintain open communication regarding important decisions in a child’s life. These can include where and how a child will live, where they will go to school, holiday plans, medical treatment, religious upbringing and much more.

Entering into a co-parenting plan is better for parents and their children as you are working together to raise your child or children without minimal conflict. It can also save you time and money. Co- parenting plans are a useful way to organise care arrangements for your child, your parental responsibilities and the new relationship between you and your child’s other parent. The key is to ensure that your child can have safe and healthy relationships with both parents.

Set clear goals and objectives.

Time and money can also be saved if both parties have clear and realistic goals and objectives. This will make any negotiations to reach a settlement far easier. Most people never take the time to decide what truly matters to them in their divorce or dissolution. By setting goals you can decide what really matters to you, and what is not so important.

Identify what matters most to you in your divorce as soon as possible. Then keep your eye on the goal. Focus on what matters and let go of what does not.

If you want to divorce amicably, one of the most important things you can do is avoid rushing your partner through the process. The more you rush the other person, the slower the process is likely to be, so try your best to be understanding and patient.

Some decisions have real time limits. Most do not. Accordingly, take the time you need to make proper decisions, and allow your partner that time as well.

The more important the decision, the more you need to consider it carefully.

Know when to stand your ground and when to compromise.

The last thing you want is a long Court battle which is likely to cost tens of thousands of pounds. Compromise does not mean giving in or giving up or going without. Compromise means giving up ground to gain ground. Compromise is the ability to identify the outcome you need to be financially independent, as opposed to seeking what you want or think you deserve. It requires you to be aware of what you would be prepared to give up to achieve your objective.

Compromise requires you look at the bigger picture and take the emotion out of negotiations.

When you are arguing about detail, a good question to ask yourself is:

Will it make any difference in 5 years’ time if I “win” this particular point?

If the answer is “no” – let it go.

It is helpful to always start each negotiation with an issue that you both agree on. It may be a small matter such as who gets an item of furniture or piece of art, or a large financial issue such as who will live in the house. Either way, your goals are the same and this will build trust and open communication for the more difficult choices and topics ahead.

Agree what you can.

It may seem obvious but you can save an enormous amount of expense by agreeing as much as you can between you. Negotiating a divorce financial settlement is never easy. But it is certainly a preferable and a more cost-effective option to a Judge who will know very little about your life, but who is responsible for deciding your financial future.

Working with your spouse or partner means you have more control of the outcome. The most productive negotiations involve open communication, compromise, and a willingness to work towards a fair agreement.

A fair divorce financial settlement is one that considers the unique circumstances of each couple’s life together. The essential elements of a fair divorce financial settlement include:

Transparency: Both parties should be honest and transparent about their financial situation, including income, assets, and debts.

Putting the children first: The welfare, needs and well-being of any children involved should be a top priority when negotiating a financial settlement.

Flexibility: A fair settlement should be flexible and consider each party’s future financial situation and needs.

Fairness: The settlement should be fair to both parties, with neither spouse nor partner being disadvantaged.

Ask questions.

There is no such thing as a silly question. For instance, you might ask what will happen if you change your mind and don’t want a divorce at all. Or you might be wondering whether you have to pay towards some of your partner’s costs. Whatever it is, if you’re unsure about something, ask.

I don’t want to divorce, can we just separate?

If the both of you agree to separate a divorce can be avoided. However, if one party believes the relationship to have irretrievably broken down a divorce or dissolution may be out of your control.



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The Family Law Specialists is the trading name of The Family Law Specialists Limited, a private limited company registered in England & Wales under company number 15318261 with the registered office at, 128 City Road, London, EC1V 2NX. We do not accept service of proceedings. © The Family Law Specialists. All rights reserved.

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