The cost of divorce


Most people going through a divorce choose to involve a solicitor to advise them on their legal position and rights, help negotiate and record agreements with their former partner, and handle any court proceedings that arise. Using a solicitor is advisable for most people but many worry about the costs involved, especially given the financial uncertainty and instability caused by divorce.

In fact, the legal costs of divorce vary enormously depending on the complexity of the issues involved: whether one party contests the divorce and the level of agreement on financial matters and child custody arrangements. Changes in costs will be more prevalent after April 1 when legal aid for divorce (except in certain circumstances such as domestic abuse) will no longer be an option.

Potentially high costs

A recent report by the Legal Ombudsman found that a disproportionately large number of client complaints against solicitors involved divorces, and that cost was the issue most frequently complained about. The report contained some horror stories involving a small minority of solicitors, such as a woman billed £4,000 for some photocopying and another whose bill exceeded the estimated fees by £40,000.

Solicitors have an important role in helping divorce clients keep track of legal fees and ensuring costs do not spiral out of control. Divorce matters can be long and drawn-out so solicitors should keep clients informed if their fees are escalating beyond the anticipated amount.

People going through a divorce may be highly emotional and this can lead to their making bad decisions. For example, they may wish to pursue expensive legal action rather than negotiating or compromising with their former partner. In this situation the solicitor should sensitively guide clients towards the option that is in their best interests, rather than the most profitable one for the solicitor.

While legal fees can be significant, using a solicitor for your divorce is likely to make the process smoother and result in a better outcome for you. When it comes to financial separation and maintenance matters, the solicitor’s fees may pay for themselves many times over in the long run.

The majority of solicitors are conscious of the cost implications for their clients and will focus on achieving the best results at a realistic cost. However, you should always be aware of any financial implications. Always ask for regular breakdowns of costs and estimates of time. There’s certainly no need to make a tough situation even tougher.

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