How much does a divorce cost, and who pays?


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Divorce is a significant life event that not only marks the end of a marriage but also the beginning of a new phase for individuals involved. But, how much does a divorce cost, and who pays the costs of divorce?

The average cost of divorce in the UK is approximately £14,561 in legal fees. These costs include various expenses such as court fees, solicitor fees, and other associated costs.

In England and Wales, divorce proceedings encompass several steps, each associated with its own set of costs. Understanding these costs is crucial for anyone considering a divorce, as it can influence decisions and preparations for this challenging period.

Some of the main expenses involved in obtaining a divorce, include legal fees, court fees, and additional costs that might arise during the process. Whether amicable or contentious, the financial aspect of divorce is an integral part of navigating this transition effectively, ensuring that individuals are fully informed and prepared for the road ahead.

How much does a divorce cost? Legal fees

Legal fees in a divorce context refer to the costs associated with hiring a solicitor to provide legal advice, prepare documents, and represent you in court. These fees can vary depending on several factors, including the complexity of your case, the level of service required, and the solicitor’s experience and location.

Factors Influencing the Cost

Complexity of the divorce:

  • Simple, uncontested divorces where both parties agree on the division of assets and child arrangements tend to cost less than contested divorces that require court hearings.

Level of service:

Fees can differ based on whether you opt for full legal representation or consult a solicitor for specific tasks only.

Solicitor’s experience and location:

in larger cities or with more experience typically charge higher rates.

How much does a divorce cost? Court Fees

Court fees are a mandatory cost associated with filing for a divorce in England and Wales. The standard fee to file for a divorce application is £593. This fee is required to process the divorce application through the courts and does not include any legal fees charged by solicitors.

Circumstances Affecting These Fees:

  • Application Type: The fee mentioned applies to both paper and online applications.
  • Financial Support: In some cases, individuals may qualify for help with fees if they have a low income or are on certain benefits.


How to Pay and Possible Exemptions

Payment can be made online or by cheque when submitting a paper application. Individuals can apply for a fee reduction or exemption based on their financial circumstances through the HM Courts & Tribunals Service.

Additional costs in divorce proceedings

Beyond legal and court fees, divorcing parties must be aware of additional costs that can arise, depending on their specific circumstances.

MIAM fees:

Before applying for a court order in family cases, including divorce, you’re usually required to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). This will be the case unless exemptions apply (such as in cases of domestic abuse).

The purpose of MIAM is to see if mediation could be used to resolve your disagreements, instead of going to court. The cost of a MIAM varies but is typically around £90 to £120 per person. This fee covers the information session about mediation and an assessment to see if mediation is suitable for your case.


If a couple is trying to reach an agreement on financial settlements, child maintenance or child arrangements and wishes to avoid court proceedings, they might opt for mediation. Costs for mediation can vary but typically start around £100 per hour.

Financial Advice:

Divorcing parties often seek financial advice to understand the implications of splitting assets, pensions, and other financial considerations. Financial advisors’ fees will vary based on the complexity of the financial arrangements.

These additional costs usually come into play when there are disagreements on asset division, child custody arrangements, or when a couple is looking for an amicable way to resolve their divorce without going to court.

Who pays divorce costs?

The question of who pays for the divorce costs largely depends on the circumstances of the divorce. Generally, the person who applies for the divorce (the petitioner) will be required to pay the Court fee for the initial application. Generally, each party bears their own costs in divorce proceedings. However, the costs can be shared or reimbursed by the other party (the respondent) in several scenarios:

Agreement between parties:

The divorcing couple can agree between themselves on how to split the costs of the divorce, including both legal and court fees.

Court Order:

In contested cases, or in cases of unreasonable behaviour, the court may order one party to pay the other’s legal costs. This is often the case if one party is deemed to be at fault or has caused unnecessary legal expenses to be incurred.

Mediation and settlements:

During mediation or settlement negotiations, the distribution of divorce costs can be discussed and agreed upon as part of the overall settlement.

Understanding who pays the divorce costs is crucial for planning and negotiations during the divorce process. It’s advisable for individuals to discuss this matter with their solicitor early on to manage expectations and financial planning.

Costs orders in divorce

Should you be awarded a costs order in your favour, it becomes legally enforceable, requiring the opposing party to cover your expenses.

In divorce proceedings, if a costs order is issued, it might state “costs to be assessed if not agreed.” This indicates that, unless a mutual agreement on costs is reached, a detailed assessment will ascertain the payable amount.

To pursue the recovery of your legal costs, you must present the opposing party with a bill of costs and a Notice of Commencement.

This bill should meticulously itemise the costs you are claiming, encompassing court fees, solicitors’ fees, expert witness fees, and any other expenses incurred throughout the divorce process.

The party liable for the payment has a 21-day window to contest the bill of costs by outlining their objections.

Should they not contest within this period, you are entitled to request a default costs certificate, granting you the right to reclaim the specified costs.

Conversely, if you are on the receiving end of a divorce costs order, the obligation to settle part or all of your spouse’s legal fees falls upon you.

Negotiating these costs is feasible through the detailed assessment process, wherein you must submit your Points of Dispute against the bill within 21 days of receipt.

These should be carefully crafted legal arguments intended to minimise your costs obligation.

The party claiming costs has the option to counter with points of reply in ongoing negotiations. Should no consensus on costs be reached, proceeding to a Detailed Assessment Hearing becomes necessary.

Is Legal Aid available for divorce costs?

In England and Wales, legal aid for divorce is mainly reserved for cases involving domestic abuse or child protection issues.

Qualifying for legal aid necessitates fulfilling specific requirements, such as providing proof of domestic abuse or demonstrating a risk of harm to you or your children.

It’s important to understand that eligibility for legal aid doesn’t exempt you from all legal costs. Depending on your financial circumstances, including income and assets, you might still need to contribute towards your legal expenses.

Furthermore, the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) establishes statutory charges for some legal services provided under the Legal Aid Scheme. These charges are applied to the cost of legal services to partially recover the expenses associated with the scheme.

Statutory charges are typically applicable to cases funded through legal aid and are assessed on an individual basis.

The exact amount of the statutory charge depends on the type of legal service rendered and the financial circumstances of the person receiving the service.

In some cases, if a party funded by legal aid receives compensation in their case, they may be required to pay a portion of it to the Legal Aid Agency as a statutory charge.

Furthermore, if a party retains or acquires assets whilst being represented under legal aid, and the full amount of legal costs cannot be recovered from the opposing party in any inter-partes costs dispute, they may be obligated to repay costs to the Legal Aid Agency that were previously paid on their behalf.

Comprehensive guidance on these matters can be found in the Civil Finance Electronic Handbook.

Cost-saving Tips

Divorce can be financially draining, but there are ways to manage and potentially reduce the costs involved:


Opting for mediation instead of going directly to court can significantly reduce legal expenses by helping both parties reach an agreement amicably.

DIY Divorce:

For simple, uncontested divorces, parties might consider a DIY divorce where they fill out and submit the paperwork themselves, avoiding solicitor fees.

Fixed-Fee Services:

Some solicitors offer fixed-fee divorce packages, providing clarity and control over legal expenses.

Collaborative Divorce:

This approach involves both parties working out the divorce and financial settlement details together, with their solicitors, outside of court.

Implementing these strategies can help mitigate the financial impact of divorce, making it a less burdensome process.

How can ARC Costs assist?

If you require the assistance of a divorce solicitor, ARC Costs can introduce you to a solicitor from our network.

Our team of highly skilled Law Costs Draftsmen and Costs Lawyers can however, assist legal representatives in recovering their legal aid fees, or in securing inter-partes costs after any such order has been made. 

Our team regularly assists in all types of costs claims, including divorce legal costs disputes. Our client base ranging from law firms to Litigants in Person, both privately funded and funded by the Legal Aid Agency. In inter-partes disputes, we can assist both paying parties and receiving parties.

If a divorce Costs Order had been made in your favour, we can assist you in recovering the costs owed to you. Equally, if a Costs Order has been made against you, we can assist in disputing legal costs and minimising your costs liability.

We can further assist in recovering costs from the Legal Aid Agency in privately funded cases. Using our expert costing service, we help clients maximise their recovered legal costs whilst providing expert legal advice and minimising the risk of rejected claims from the Legal Aid Agency, to ensure you maintain your KPIs.

We regularly use the CCMS system to submit legal aid costs claims and deal with all the administration on behalf of our clients and to free up the time of fee earners, thereby ensuring you can recover your maximum legal aid fees in an expeditious and efficient manner.

To find out more about how we can provide you with assistance, please contact us at 01204 397302 or email our team of experts at Alternatively, please use our free chat facility to speak to an expert directly.

We may receive payments from third party solicitors on our panel to whom we may refer your claim. We will never charge you for any referrals made to our panel of third parties.


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01204 397302

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