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How to get divorced cheaply

John Fitzsimons
by Lovemoney Staff John Fitzsimons on 31 December 2012  |  Comments 11 comments

You don't have to pay a fortune for your freedom. Follow these tips to cut the cost of your divorce.

How to get divorced cheaply

We are nearing the most popular time of the year for divorce proceedings (immediately after the New Year), when couples in unhappy relationships decide to make a new start of it.

‘Til irritation do us part

However, divorce is not always the cheapest of processes to go through.

According to Intelligent Divorce, even a straightforward divorce will run up legal fees in the region of £20,000, while a trip to court could hit £40,000.

So how can you call time on your marriage without spending a fortune?

Going the DIY route

You can keep the involvement of lawyers to a minimum by going down the DIY route with a divorce. Intelligent Divorce is one firm that offers this sort of service. Here’s how it works: first, you follow the step-by-step guide on the website to get a full financial picture. At this point, you will then receive some advice from an experienced family law barrister to get an idea of what a ‘fair’ division of assets would be. You can then use that information to come to an agreement on how to settle your assets.

Intelligent Divorce argues that a lot of the time which solicitors will charge you for is just for them researching your finances, a step you can do on your own, saving money in the process.

While this is certainly a cheap way of getting divorced, with the co-operative service (where husband and wife do it together) costing £499 each, it’s clearly not going to be appropriate for everyone.

Picking the right solicitor

It can be very tempting to just shop around for the cheapest quote when looking for legal advice, but remember that can be a false economy – you may save a couple of hundred pounds by going with a budget lawyer, but that may cost you thousands in the long run if they don’t get you a good deal.

Have a read of How to pick a solicitor for more.

Mediation

New rules established last year year mean that all divorcing and separating couples are referred to mediation before they are allowed to go to court. This means that an independent mediator will sit down with both parties and try to come to a final agreement on how the assets will be divided, and what will happen with any children (or pets!) the couple may have.

While the new rules mean that you must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, they do not oblige you to commit to the process afterwards. Generally mediation will take two to four sessions. There is no standard fee for mediation, but it’s worth remembering that while it will likely be cheaper than heading straight to court, it may be testing emotionally, having to spend hours in a room with your soon-to-be-ex arguing over the fine details of your split.

Collaboration

Collaboration works in a similar way to mediation, in that both parties sit down to work out who gets what, outside of the courtroom.

However, the difference is that the process can involve far more than just the two parties and an independent mediator. With collaboration, each party will not only have their lawyers present, but there may be all sorts of other professionals involved too, from accountants and life coaches to children’s counsellors.

The idea is that this way, you reach the fairest outcome, whereas with mediation there is the risk that the ‘dominant’ party may force through a better deal than is merited (for example, an unfaithful husband may hand over more than he should out of guilt, or a housewife unfamiliar with the family’s finances may get a raw deal).

The fact is that if you don’t want to spend a fortune in legal fees, avoiding a day out in court is your best bet.

I want a pre-nup!

Whenever there is a high-profile break-up, there is always a discussion of whether there was a pre-nuptial agreement in place. This is basically where both parties agree how the finances will be handled should they split up. It tends to be something the very wealthy use to ensure that should they marry a mere mortal like you and me, we can’t make off with all of their cash when it all goes awry.

Interestingly, women are the ones instigating more and more pre-nups. According to a study by Contact Law, almost two-thirds of the 200 solicitors they surveyed reported an increase in women enquiring about establishing a pre-nup over the past couple of years. Indeed, more than one in five are now at the behest of the bride-to-be.

It’s worth remembering that a pre-nup is not actually legally binding in UK law. That said, they are legally ‘persuasive’ (in the words of Contact Law), and so long as the agreement meets certain criteria – demonstrating that independent legal advice was sought, a full financial disclosure, and establishing no undue pressure was put on either party – then there is a very good chance that the courts will uphold it.

So even before you head down the aisle, it pays to consider what should happen if the marriage doesn’t last – it could save you a fortune in the long run! Read Rise of the pre-nup for more.

Thanks to Stowe Family Law and Jones Myers for their help with this article.

This is a lovemoney classic article which has been updated.

More on family finance:

Child Benefit changes: what you need to know

The top 20 places for families to live

Protect your kids from your money worries

How to claim your Tax Credits

How to untangle joint finances

The importance of arranging Lasting Power of Attorney

How to have a baby on a budget!

Five ways to cut the cost of childcare

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Comments (11)

  • fender
    Love rating 27
    fender said

    The best way to get a cheap divorce is do it yourself. Often even if you have to walk away with next to nothing it might still be cheaper than involving a lawyer.

    Forget the so called free hour and the reassuring estimate of what it might cost.

    As the months you were not warned about turn to years, those reassuring estimates soon fade in the dust as the letters go here there and everywhere, and thousands of useless photo copies @ 25p plus vat per page plus £200 per hour labour for pushing the copier button etc etc. are all added.

    In my opinion the government needs to tackle the divorce pin stripe spives & shysters with their misleading traps ( estimates ) who prey on, and make a fortune out of the misery of the unsuspecting punter. ( oops they call them clients don't they lol )

    Lets get more to the point the government itself and its mates the legal trade particularly those outfits that call themselves family law. Theres a word "family". In relation to divorce that word gives a totally false impression, when all mixed with "law" it gives a preconception of being there to help. When in fact in my experience the lawyer first and foremost only has profit in mind. So from the start far from being there to help, will be looking for every possible complication to manipulate ensuring nothing is sorted out fast.

    Bottom line, pointless complications produce loads of paper work. Paper work equals profit. Profit equals fat bottom line.

    Add in the silent spives who also will want their slice of the action ( the government ). There is your lethal combination ready to drain you of every penny you have worked for.

    Working together hand in pocket, the legal trade maximise profit ( sorry costs, lol ) then the government adds its slice. Yes with every divorce mixed with a lawyer the government is on to a sure winner, for starters there is 20% vat thats added to your ever growing bill.

    How to control the situation if you could ever believe the government want to, well for starters.

    1,) Make divorce a reasonable fixed cost arbitration matter, whereas first couples by law should seek the help of a marriage guidance type thing but in this case, a councillor to work out how to split things amicably.

    2,) If 1 fails and it does ends up with a lawyer, then Make deliberately dragging out issues for profit by the legal shysters a criminal offence that can be investigated and prosecuted by the Police.

    3,) Make it that all divorce legal bill's should be checked by an independent third party such as a councillor as in ( 1 ) for fairness etc.

    4,) Get rid of the useless law society. Instead let trading standards investigate the legal trade when issues arise.

    5,) Make legal fees in cases of divorce zero vat.

    As it is, I don't think anything will every change there is too much money in it for those who profit out of the misery of others so don't hold your breath.

    From my direct experience, the law society & LSC with its hidden time limits, obstacles and complicated rules can and do, quash every complaint flat. They ensure complaint's are dead in the water before the ink is even dry on the paper. From what I can see the whole so called complaints procedure is rigged up to protect the wrong doer, and to ensure the complainant ends up cornered with nowhere to go.

    Best advice I can give is avoid lawyers at all costs and sort it out yourself.

    Report on 01 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • melissa.chapman@intelligentdivorce.co.uk
    Love rating 0
    melissa.chapman@intelligentdivorce.co.uk said

    Thanks for mentioning www.intelligentdivorce.co.uk in your article John. We genuinely believe we can (not for everyone, but for those who are able to communicate to some degree with each other) offer an affordable way to resolve finances on divorce, with the help of top legal experts. We also offer lots of free advice for people who are handling their divorce and financial affairs themselves on our blog - www.moneyanddivorce - including step by step illustrated guides to filling out the forms.

    Melissa Chapman, co-founder www.intelligentdivorce.co.uk

    Report on 15 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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