In This Post

In this detailed guide I'll teach you what it really costs to get a divorce in the UK:


  • How much a quick online divorce should cost
  • How much you’ll pay in lawyer’s fees if you end up going to a full court trial
  • My barrister’s top tips on how to save money on your divorce

Let’s get started...

Chapter 1.

<chaptertitleh2>How Much Does A Divorce Cost?<chaptertitleh2>

Do you want to know how much does a divorce cost? Then everything you need to know about the cost of divorce will be explained in this in depth guide.

What Is A Divorce Settlement?

In this chapter you’ll learn about the difference between the divorce process and the divorce settlement.

This is important, because the cost of these two elements of your divorce are VERY different. 

Let’s dive in...

What’s The Difference Between The Divorce Process And The Divorce Settlement?

First things first…

Some definitions.

There are two parts to every divorce

  1. The Divorce process, and;
  1. The Divorce settlement

The divorce process is what ends your marriage. From a legal perspective, it is simply the ending of your marriage contract.

It does nothing to sort out the finances between you and your partner. 

For that, you need a <bloglink>divorce financial settlement.<bloglink> 

This is where you both agree how to divide your assets and debts. Or, if you can’t agree, you ask the court to decide for you (more on that later).

How much does a divorce cost?

Both elements come at a cost, and the price you’ll pay can vary hugely, depending on a number of factors.

Before we look into specific prices, let’s take a quick look at some of those broader factors that can increase or decrease the cost of your divorce.

What Factors Can Affect The Cost Of Your Divorce?

1. Is your divorce contested?

However, contested divorces are very rare. In fact, more than 99% of divorces are uncontested, and both partners agree they want to split up. 

If this is the case, it will increase costs a lot. 

If your divorce is contested, it means one of you wants to remain married and is willing to fight the divorce in court.

2. Can you agree on a settlement?

So, the more you can agree on how to share your finances, the more money you’re likely to save.

Costs will increase if there is a dispute about the divorce settlement, or other elements such as spousal maintenance.

It’s far more common for couples to agree that they want to get divorced, but to disagree on how to share their wealth. 

3. How complex are your finances?

The more complex your finances are, the more expensive your divorce is likely to be.

If you need to divide assets like pensions, shares, business interests, trusts and inheritances, or multiple properties, this can all add to the cost. Any international element to your divorce can also increase costs.

4. Will you use a lawyer?

Lawyer's fees usually make up the biggest cost in a divorce.

However, if you’re going through anything other than the most straightforward and amicable divorce, you should really get advice from a lawyer.

And if you end up going to court, your lawyer will likely charge an hourly rate, which can quickly add up.

There are some cheaper options, such as online divorce services or DIY divorce (which we’ll discuss later).

5. Where in the UK are you?

Lawyer’s fees vary a lot depending on where you are in the country.

A lawyer will cost a lot more in London than in Lancashire.

The seniority of the lawyer also makes a big difference, with more experienced lawyers charging higher fees.

6. Will you go to court?

Ending up in court is far and away the most expensive way to resolve your divorce.

But sometimes it’s unavoidable if you simply can’t agree, or if there are acrimonious grounds of divorce.

There are other options for avoiding court (such as mediation) which can often save you money, and we’ll look at these in Chapter 4.

7. Is there a dispute over children?

While technically a separate issue, child custody proceedings often occur at the same time as, or soon after, your divorce, and are likely to add to your costs; particularly if custody is fought over in the courts.

8. How are relations between you and your partner?

You may not agree on everything, but the more you can cooperate with your partner, the more money you are likely to save.  

When couples both dig their heels in and fight over every issue, costs can quickly skyrocket.

“Remember: When it comes to divorce, the more you agree, the less it will be”

<bloglink>Neil Johnstone, Barrister<bloglink>

Chapter 2.

<chaptertitleh4>The Average Cost Of Getting Divorced<chaptertitleh4>

In this chapter we’re going to look at the costs of your 3 main options for getting divorced, which are:

  1. Doing it yourself - the DIY route
  1. Using an online divorce service
  2. Using a lawyer

What Are My Options For Getting Divorced?

There are 3 main options for getting a divorce: doing it yourself; using an online divorce service; or using a lawyer.

Unsurprisingly, the DIY route is the cheapest option, and using a lawyer is most expensive. Online divorce services try to offer a half-way house between the professionalism of using a qualified lawyer, and the cost savings made by doing some of the work yourself.

Remember, this is just the cost for getting formally divorced (ie. completing the 5 stages of the divorce process).

In chapter 3 we’ll look at the separate costs of the <bloglink>divorce settlement process.<bloglink>

How much does a divorce cost?

Option 1- Doing It Yourself (Free, plus court fees of £550)

Handling your divorce by yourself is the absolute cheapest route to untying the knot. 

You do the work yourself, so there is no online service or lawyer’s fees to pay

It simply means visiting <bloglink><bloglink>, filling out the form, and paying the court fee online, which is £550 (whatever route you choose, you’ll always have to pay this court fee).

Whoever makes the application is called “the Petitioner” (the other partner is called “the Respondent”), and it’s the Petitioner who pays the fee.

Applying for a divorce on

After the divorce petition is issued by the court, you'll then need to complete the remaining steps in the divorce process by applying to <bloglink>get your Decree Absolute.<bloglink>

Once the Decree Absolute is granted, that's it...

A divorce in the bag for just the court fee of £550. 

Simple, right?

Well, just like home DIY, doing things by yourself can be tricky!

This route really is only an option in the most straightforward divorce, where you and your partner pretty much agree on everything and just want to end the marriage. 

Remember, you will receive no support from anyone during the process. 

Indeed, it’s not uncommon for people to start the process and then realise they actually need help from a lawyer. Another common issue is the court rejecting the form because you have not provided enough information, or made errors. 

So my advice is that if you’re going to take this route, it’s worth investing a little bit more cash in at least one advice session with a lawyer, as a safety check (especially when it comes to your finances). The cost of this session will usually be charged at the lawyer’s hourly rate, which we’ll discuss in chapter 3.

Top Tip:

People sometimes call this a “Quickie” divorce, but it’s really not. It doesn’t mean the court will handle your divorce any quicker than if you used a lawyer.

Whether or not you go the DIY route, a divorce cannot take less than six months.

An icon of a lightbulb

Option 2- Using An Online Divorce Service (£40 to £600, plus court fees)

If going full DIY is a bit daunting, there are now a wide range of online divorce services that can help you through the process. 

These websites are the second cheapest option for getting a divorce, but it’s important to realise: 

These companies are not law firms.

Solicitors regulation authority logo
Every law firm must display the regulator's logo on their website. If you don't see it, they aren't a law firm

They generally call themselves “Legal services companies”. They may have lawyers on their staff, but the companies themselves are not regulated as law firms. 

They usually offer two types of fixed price package for handling your divorce:

Online Divorce- Form Filling Services- £40 to £99

This is the most basic type of package where they complete the divorce application form for you, and then you submit it to the court yourself. 

I would question whether you really need to pay for someone to input information onto a form for you, particularly when you can simply do this online yourself at the YouGov site.

But if you’re the kind of person who likes to pay for convenience, this may be the service for you.

Screenshot of an online divorce service website

Online Divorce- Managed Services- £150 to £400

Most of these websites also offer a range of higher priced options, where a member of their staff will complete the paperwork for you, submit it to court on your behalf, and also offer some guidance throughout the process (either via telephone or email support).

From what I can see, the options at the cheaper end of the range tend to be completed by non-lawyers (the sites use terms like “divorce managers”).

The higher priced packages often (but not always) means an actual solicitor will review your papers, and may give you some advice over the phone or via email. 

But at these prices, don’t expect hours and hours of input from a qualified lawyer. They really just handle your application, and provide some basic advice.

Screenshot of a managed divorce website

There are two important points to make here:

  1. Just like DIY divorce, these services are really only appropriate for straightforward and uncontested divorces, where you and your partner largely agree (in fact, many of these services likely won’t take you on if your divorce is complicated). 
  2. These services don’t include the £550 court fee, so if you’re the Petitioner you’ll still need to budget for that on top.

Top Tip:

If you’re confident you can complete the court papers yourself, you may be better off saving your £200 to £400 and using that to go see a qualified independent solicitor for an hour, who can then give you advice on any complex issues or sticking points. This way, your money is being put to best use paying for proper legal advice, rather than for simple form filling.

An icon of a lightbulb

Option 3- Using A Divorce Lawyer (£600 to £1200, plus court fees)

The traditional way to get your divorce is to visit your local high street solicitor’s firm, though many people now also use one of the large online law firms.

Image of a high street family law firm

Most of them will offer a fixed price package to process your divorce, which will generally include:

  • One to one legal advice
  • Preparing and completing all your divorce paperwork
  • Submitting the paperwork to the court 

If you’re the Petitioner, you can expect to pay in the region of £600 to £1200 (central London can often be a good bit more, with fixed fees in excess of £2000 not being uncommon)

It’s a bit cheaper if you’re the Respondent, often coming in somewhere between £300 to £600.

Like anything else in life, it’s worth calling round a few firms for quotes to compare prices. And again, these fixed fee services will generally not include the court fee, so the Petitioner will have to cover that additional cost of £550. 

Remember, all 3 options here are just for the cost of processing an uncontested divorce. If the divorce is contested, or there are serious disputes over finances or children, you’ll need a solicitor who is likely to charge at their hourly rate. 

The Average Cost Of A Clean Break Order Or A Consent Order (£300 to £3000+)

So, those are your 3 main options for actually getting a divorce (ie ending the marriage contract). 

If you can agree your financial settlement with your partner, then you’ll want to <bloglink>formalise the agreement in a Consent Order or a Clean Break Order<bloglink> 

A consent order is needed when you agree to share your <bloglink>finances.<bloglink> It details how your assets will be divided between you and makes that agreement legally binding. 

A clean break order is when both choose to go your own way, and don’t want to share any assets (ie. you both simply keep what you already own). Again, a clean break order makes this agreement legally binding and prevents either of you from making a future claim against the other. Many people assume that the cost of a consent order or a clean break order is included in the divorce package they have ordered, but often they are not, so you should always ask at the outset. 

How much does a divorce cost?

Most of the online divorce services will offer a consent order from between £300-£600. Again, I would only really recommend using these online services where your finances are relatively straightforward. 

If you are using your own solicitor, they are likely to charge somewhere in the region of £500 to £800 for a straightforward case. Which is not a huge amount more, considering that in this case you should be guaranteed to have a qualified solicitor drafting the agreement. Clean break orders are unlikely to cost much more than this, as they can’t really get any more complex (you are not sharing any assets). 

But with a consent order, if your assets are a lot more complicated (for example including the <bloglink>sharing of pensions<bloglink>), then prices can easily rise to over £1500. In the most complex cases a consent order from an experienced family specialist could top £3000. 

You’ll also need to have the agreement approved by the court for it to be legally binding. The court fee for this is £50, and most online services or solicitors will file the order at court for you. 

Of course, there’s nothing to stop you drafting your own consent or clean break order (you can find both free and paid templates online). But I would generally warn against this, for two reasons:

  1. The court can reject the agreement if they don’t consider it to be fair. When you pay a professional, they should make sure the agreement between you is fair and reasonable, and will be accepted by the court.
  2. Once the agreement is approved by the court, you can’t simply change your mind. It’s now legally binding. So if you made a mistake, it can be very difficult (and expensive) to remedy.

Chapter 3.

<chaptertitleh4>The Average Cost Of A Divorce Settlement<chaptertitleh4>

In this chapter we’re going to cover the costs of the divorce settlement.

(ie. the more expensive part of your divorce).

You’ll learn:

  • How much divorce lawyers charge, and;
  • How much a full divorce court case will cost

Let’s get right to it...


So now you have a good idea what it will cost you to get a straightforward divorce, where you and your partner largely agree.

But what happens if you can’t agree? 

Well, if one of you is contesting the divorce, or you just can’t agree how to divide your finances fairly, then you’re going to need a lawyer to represent you in court.

And that’s where things can start to get expensive.

But how much will is cost exactly?

Divorce Lawyer Costs: Hourly Billing vs Fixed Fees

The first thing to understand is how your lawyer is going to charge. There are two main methods in divorce cases that go to court:

  1. Hourly rates

  2. Fixed fees

Hourly rates do what they say on the tin. Your solicitor will have a set hourly rate, and they will bill you for every hour they work. 

Bear in mind that this includes fractions of an hour. So if an email takes them 10 minutes, they will bill you 1/6th of their hourly rate.

A graph showing solicitor hourly billing rates

Obviously, in a divorce case where you don’t know how long it will take, this can be a daunting prospect.

We’ll look at what hourly rates lawyers typically charge in a minute. But first, let's see how fixed fees can (sometimes) help control costs.

Will Your Lawyer Offer A Fixed Fee For Divorce?

As we saw in Chapter 2, fixed fee packages are very common for a straightforward divorce that doesn’t either go to court, or through <bloglink>the divorce mediation process<bloglink>. 

But in more complex cases (for example where there are high value assets or <bloglink>if there is a prenuptial agreement in place<bloglink>), fixed fees are far harder to come by.

Basically, when the solicitor is not sure how long the divorce case will take, they are understandably reluctant to charge a pre-fixed amount.
But you can still sometimes negotiate a fixed fee, at least for some parts of your case.

A man in a suit signs a cheque

For example, some lawyers may break the case up into distinct chunks, and cap the overall charges for each stage (eg pre-court work, pre-final hearing work etc). Barristers (who are specialists that represent you in court) also commonly charge a fixed daily rate, rather than charging by the hour. 

These are options for controlling costs that you should explore with your lawyer from the outset. And once your solicitor understands the basics of your case, they should always be able to give you an overall estimate of the cost (usually within a range).

How Much Does A Divorce Lawyer Charge Per Hour?

If you’re going to court, it’s more likely than not that you’re going to end up paying an hourly rate.

But how much is a typical hourly rate?

Well, they can vary a lot, depending on two main factors:

  • The solicitor’s experience

  • The law firm’s location
An image of a hand holding a watch

Obviously, the more experienced the solicitor is, the more they are able to charge.

When it comes to location, as a rough rule of thumb, the higher the property prices are the more the local lawyers will cost. Basically, lawyers in expensive cities can charge more than those in small towns. 

With that in mind, let’s look at what you can typically expect to pay on an hourly basis.

Hourly Rate (UK-wide)

Hourly Rate (London)

Junior or paralegal
Junior or paralegal

£130 (range £100 to £160)

Junior or paralegal

£150 (range £130 to £200)

4+ years experience
4+ years experience

£180 (£150 to £250)

4+ years experience

£230 (range £180 to £290)

8+ years experience
8+ years experience

£250 (range £220 to £300)

8+ years experience

£350 (range £230 to £500+)

Bear in mind two things: 

  1. These are rough estimates. Individual lawyers can charge a lot more or less if they choose.
  2. Not all work on your case is likely to be conducted by the same level of lawyer. For example, a junior may deal with routine emails and paperwork, while a more senior lawyer handles court proceedings.

How Much Will A Divorce Court Case Cost?

Of course, the second part of the puzzle is how many hours will your lawyer need to bill for?

Unfortunately, this is a bit like the age old question “how long is a piece of string?”. Every case will have its own complexities and nuances, and it’s not easy to give precise figures for the overall cost of a divorce. 

Nevertheless, I’ve put together some broad estimates, depending on the stage that your case might get to (remember, most couples settle at some point during the court process, rather than going all the way to a final trial).

An infographic showing the stages of the divorce court

If The Case Resolves At Or Before The First Directions Appointment (£3,000 to £15,000)

The first court hearing in a disputed divorce case is called the “First Direction Appointment” (FDA). It’s largely an administrative hearing, where a timetable is set and some ground rules are laid; although sometimes it can be used as a settlement hearing, if the parties are able to agree at that stage. 

At least 14 days before the First Directions Appointment both parties must also have completed their <bloglink>"Form E"<bloglink>, which is a detailed court form recording all your financial information and assets.

The Form E Financial Statement
The Form E Financial Statement

If your case settles at or before the First Directions Appointment you can expect to pay between £3000 to £15,000 in legal fees. Obviously, the earlier you settle during this process, the more you will save. 

A substantial amount of cases do manage to settle during this phase. The reality of incurring legal expenses, and the fact that court is now involved, often helps convince an unwilling partner to start compromising. Completion of the Form E also puts both of your finances down in black and white, and gives you a solid basis to start negotiations.

If The Case Resolves At Or Before The Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (£15,000 to £40,000)

The second hearing is the “Financial Dispute Resolution” hearing (FDR). The FDR is kind of like a judge led negotiation session, and is usually held about 3 to 4 months after the FDA. The judge will look objectively at the documents you and your partner have provided to the court, and will hear arguments from either of your lawyers.

The judge will then give an indication of what they think the settlement would likely be, if the case were to go all the way to a trial. 

In essence, they'll say something like "If this were to go all the way to trial, I would expect the wife to get X and the husband to get Y"

This indication is not binding- you can ignore it and go on to a full trial if you choose. But often, simply hearing the opinion of an experience judge is enough to convince a couple to compromise.

This is also where you start incurring significant additional fees paying for a barrister, who are specialist lawyers that deal with court hearings and trials, so the motivation to settled become stronger. If your case resolves at or before the FDR you can expect to pay between £15,000 to £40,000 in total in legal fees. 

The vast majority of cases do settle at or before the FDR; as most people rightly pay good attention to what an experienced divorce judge has to say. However, the court can’t force you to settle at this stage, and if you don’t agree the case will go on to a full trial.

If The Case Goes To A Full Trial (£30,000 to £75,000+)

The last hearing is the full trial, which can be up to 6 to 12 months after the FDR. 

This is a full formal hearing, with all the evidence heard and considered by the court. You and your partner will both give live evidence, and may also call other witnesses on our behalf.

An image of a family courtroom

Your lawyers will both make detailed arguments to the court in support of your case. The trial can last several days, or even weeks. At the end of the trial a judgement will be given determining the final financial settlement. This decision will be binding on the parties.

If your case goes all the way to a full trial, you can expect to pay between £30,000 and £75,000 in total in legal fees.

Is Going to Court Worth The Cost?


So now you have an idea just how much a full divorce court case can cost when you have lawyers billing hourly rates. 

Remember, these are just estimates, and are for a mid-range family solicitors, outside of central London. If you have a particularly complex or High Net Worth divorce, legal fees can easily run into six figures.

A Graphic of the High Net Worth Pyramid
Banks typically categorise anyone with £1-5 million or more as high net worth client

As you can see, it’s not cheap.

However, sometimes taking court action is the only way to force an unreasonable partner to the negotiating table. There is a cost to under-settling your case too, and spending money on legal fees can more than pay for itself if it gets you a fair settlement.

For example, spending £15,000 on a lawyer if it gains you £50,000 more from the settlement is clearly a good investment.

An infographic showing the value of your settlement vs the cost of your legal fees
If your settlement amount outweighs your legal fees, then it can be a great investment

Of course, many people don't have the funds to pay for a lawyer upfront, even if using a lawyer could win them more money in the long run. 

But there is a solution. 

In Chapter 6, I’ll teach you about the legal funding options that can help you pay your legal fees upfront.

Or, if you’d like to know more straight away, check out my guide to divorce funding solutions…

Chapter 4.

<chaptertitleh4>The Average Cost Of Divorce Mediation Or Arbitration<chaptertitleh4>

If the cost of going to Court worries you, then in this chapter I’ll teach you about two alternatives that can save you money, while still helping you reach an agreement.

These are:

  • Divorce arbitration

These options can be a LOT cheaper than a full on court case.

Let’s check out the costs...

The Cost Of Divorce Mediation (£750 to £2000 per person)

In divorce mediation, you and your partner hire a neutral third party (the mediator) who will help you work through the issues and try to reach agreement. 

They will not decide for you- You and your partner ultimately still need to agree on a settlement. 

But, having an experienced and objective third party evaluate your positions and give unbiased guidance can often help couples reach common ground.

A conference room in a corner office overlooking London
Negotiations are held outside of court, usually at a neutral venue such as the solicitor's office

Mediators tend to charge either by the session or by the hour, with mediators who are also qualified lawyers usually charging more. Hourly rates of between £120 to £250 are fairly standard. 

The overall cost of your mediation process will depend on the number of sessions you have- three or four sessions is commonly needed (though it can be less), costing anywhere between £750 to £2000 in total, per person. You'll also need to attend an initial assessment session before you start mediation, called the <bloglink>mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM).<bloglink>

As you can see, this is a lot less than it would cost to go through the courts. 

Of course you can’t force an unwilling partner to mediate, and you get what you pay for. Mediation does not offer you all the powers of the court, such as being able to enforce disclosure of finances or assets. 

It’s also worth bearing in mind that, if your mediation falls apart and you just can’t agree, you may still end up going to court, and have now lost more money on an unsuccessful mediation process. 

Always ask: 

What are the attitudes going into the mediation?

If one of you is dead set against it, it may not work out as a good investment. But if you are both willing to try, and just need some help from a neutral person to reach agreement, mediation can be a very cost effective way to reslove your divorce settlement.

The Cost Of Divorce Arbitration (£1,500 to £20,000+)

Arbitration is like a private court process. 

You hire a specialist (who are often qualified lawyers, or retired judges), and they act like a court judge.

The main difference between mediation and arbitration is that the arbitrator will make a final decision for you. Once they’ve looked at all the evidence and heard all the arguments, the arbitrator will decide what the divorce settlement should be, just like a court judgement.

The main advantages over actually going to court are that it’s much quicker, it’s private, and it’s cheaper. 

How much cheaper depends on whether your arbitration is decided;

  • On the papers, or;
  • At a full hearing

Divorce Arbitration: On The Papers

An “On the papers” process means the arbitrator will simply decide your case on all the documents and evidence you and your partner submit to them. You or your lawyer can also submit any written arguments you may have.

A file of case papers to be read at arbitration

There is no hearing and no live evidence, and this saves a lot of expense.

Most arbitrators will charge somewhere between £1500 to £4000 for a papers based decision.

Divorce Arbitration: At A Full Hearing

If you choose to have a full hearing, you will be able to make more detailed arguments before the arbitrator.

An arbitrator discusses the case with two lawyers

The arbitrator will commonly charge somewhere between £2000 to £5000 for a full hearing. The differences in price will usually come down to how many days the arbitration takes. 

In addition, most people will hire a lawyer to represent them at an arbitration hearing, just as they would in court. Most lawyers will charge somewhere between £3000 to £10,000, depending on the length and complexity of the hearing. 

Remember, just like mediation, arbitration is a voluntary process. So you can’t force an unwilling partner to participate. However, unlike mediation, if your partner does agree to participate, then the arbitrator’s decision will be final and binding on them.

Chapter 5.

<chaptertitleh4>Top Tips For Saving On Divorce Costs<chaptertitleh4>

In this chapter I’m going to give you my best advice for saving money on your divorce costs, including:

  • My barrister’s top tips for saving on your divorce costs

  • How to get divorce legal aid or help with your court fees

  • How to keep on top on top of your lawyer’s billing

Saving On Divorce Costs: Some Simple Steps

When going through a divorce, there are some really simple steps you can take to help reduce your costs.

Let’s check them out...

Shop around

The biggest mistake I see people make is simply hiring the first law firm they find on Google, or the nearest firm on their local high street, without shopping around first.

Prices can vary a lot between different firms, so like any other big purchase, you should always shop around first to make sure you’re getting a fair deal.

Any good law firm should be willing to talk you through their pricing structures on the phone, for free. Try to speak to at least 3 firms. That way you’ll be able to tell if any one seems unreasonably expensive. Equally, if a firm is markedly cheaper than all the others, that might raise some suspicions about the quality of service they are likely to provide.

The more firms you can talk to before making a hiring decision, the better. Remember, you’re going to have a relationship with this firm for several months while your divorce progresses, so it’s worth investing some effort at the outset to ensure you pick the right firm, at the right price.

Organise your documents and information

When your divorce lawyer is charging by the hour, you really need to make that time count.

The last thing you want in a one 1 hour consultation or phone call is to waste the first 10 or 15 minutes scrabbling through a pile of papers.

The key is to be organised.

Start building a file of all your important documents from the outset, so you know where everything is when you need it, and it is in an organised system for your lawyer.

Also make sure any information you give to your lawyer is factually accurate. If you give wrong details or information, it will only add to your costs when it needs correcting later down the line.

Use efficient communications

Remember, your lawyer will likely charge for every email, call or text message they take from you.

So it’s a good idea not to send them 5 emails a day if this can be avoided. Try to consolidate your communications into one efficient email or call wherever possible.

Also, use your lawyer as a lawyer- not as a counsellor. Try to avoid leaning on them for emotional support or guidance. There are cheaper sources such as friends or qualified counsellors for that!

Lastly, try to give your lawyer clear and consistent instructions. If you keep changing your mind or moving goal posts, this can all add to the costs of your case.

Do some research and have a plan

  • Will you sell your house, and where will you live if you do?
  • Will you be seeking child custody?
  • Are you making a claim against your partner’s pension?
Understanding the basics of the divorce process, and your legal rights, can save a lot of explaining by your lawyer. No-one is expecting you to become a legal mastermind! But learning the basics means your lawyer can get straight to the more difficult and important points. You can find lots of great legal education online for free (why not check out some of my other divorce posts?)

Also, give some thought to what you want out of your divorce. You don’t want the first time you consider these issues to be in your lawyer’s office, when they are billing you by the hour. Think about things like:
Look further afield for a lawyer

In chapter 3 you learned my rough rule of thumb:

The higher the property prices in your area, the higher lawyer fees are likely to be.

But do you need to hire in your local area?

Believe it or not, the majority of legal services are now delivered online.

Technologies like Zoom have made it much easier and more convenient for your lawyer to meet and consult with you over the internet. Some family law firms can now manage your case completely online, with your lawyer only physically meeting you when you need to go to court.

This means geography may no longer be the deciding factor when picking a law firm. There are pros and cons to having your legal services delivered mostly or even purely online, but one of the main benefits is costs saving.

If you live in an expensive area, approaching some law firms further afield may be a way to make significant costs savings.

Use specialist divorce funding

In the next chapter I’m going to teach you about a great new way to help pay for your lawyer using specialist divorce funders; often helping you save costs and expense during your case.

Could You Get Help with Divorce Court Fees Or Divorce Legal Aid?

Divorce Legal Aid

If you are on a lower income and meet certain criteria, you may be eligible for legal aid, which is where the government helps you pay your legal fees.

The legal aid agency logo

Due to recent government cut backs, it’s now pretty hard to get legal aid for family cases. But if you meet the following criteria, you should ask your lawyer if you might be eligible:

You will also need to pass a financial assessment, and will need a divorce lawyer that accepts legal aid (not all do).

If you are eligible, you can also use legal aid for family mediation. 

To see if you might be eligible, you can check out the government's <bloglink>legal aid checker<bloglink>.

Screenshot of the legal aid site

Help With Divorce Court Fees

A similar government scheme is available to help those with limited resources pay for their court fees (note: this is just helping you with court fees, not lawyer fees- but every little helps).

Legal aid vs help with court fees

To be eligible you must meet the following criteria:


A single person: You must earn less than £1085 per month before tax.

A couple: You must earn less than £1245 per month before tax.

Children: You can earn an additional £245 per child and still be eligible.


Under 61 years: You must have less than £3000 in savings if you’re under 61 years old.

Over 61 years: You must have less than £16,000 in savings if you’re over 61 years old.


  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Credit

If your income is above the threshold, you may still be eligible if you're claiming one or more of the following benefits:

To see if you might be eligible, you can check out the government's <bloglink>court fee checker<bloglink>.

The government website for applying for help with court fees

How To Keep On Top Of Your Legal Bills

Lawyers and law firms are heavily regulated. 

There are strict rules they must follow when it comes to billing and fees. 

As a minimum, your lawyer must provide you with the following information:

At The Outset Of Your Case

Your solicitor should inform you, in writing, how much your case is likely to cost or, if this cannot be predicted, how the cost will be calculated (eg. by giving their hourly rate and an indication of how many hours are likely to be needed).

During Your Case

You should be kept up-to-date with the costs throughout your case. It’s not acceptable for your lawyer to just sit back and let huge fees accrue, without keeping you in the loop. 

If your costs are likely to go beyond the lawyer’s initial estimate, or beyond any budget you have given them, they should warn you before they incur those additional costs.

At The End Of Your Case

After your case is completed, your solicitor must give you a written bill, setting out all their charges and the dates work was done. The bill should provide enough information to allow you to decide whether the charges are reasonable.

Challenging Your Lawyer’s Bill

But what if you think your lawyer’s bill isn’t reasonable?

Well, there are two ways you can challenge a solicitor’s bill:

1. Complain To The Legal Ombudsman

If you are unhappy with your bill you can complain, for free, to the <bloglink>Legal Ombudsman<bloglink>. They will then investigate for you, and if they agree the bill was unreasonable, they will inform the solicitors. More often than not, this is enough to convince the solicitors to refund you any overcharged fees. If not, then you can seek a court order to enforce the Ombudsman’s decision.

The Legal Ombudsman logo

Note though, that before applying to the Ombudsman, you must first have made a formal complaint to your lawyer, following their complaints procedure.

2. Apply To Court For A Detailed Assessment

You can also <bloglink>go directly to the courts<bloglink> and ask them to make a ‘detailed assessment’ of your lawyer’s bill if you think it’s unreasonable. If they agree, they can reduce your bill and order repayment from the solicitors. While this route is somewhat more drastic than the Ombudsman (you’ll need to go directly to the courts yourself), if you are successful you'll have the benefit of immediately obtaining an enforceable court order.

The Royal Courts of Justice in London
Lawyers' bills can be assessed at the Royal Courts of Justice in London

Chapter 6.

<chaptertitleh4>How To Pay For Your Divorce<chaptertitleh4>

I suspect you realise by now: Divorce isn’t cheap.

In fact, the costs are often more than most people can afford to pay upfront.

So, in this chapter you’ll learn about your different financing options. 

I’m also going to teach you about the little known world of divorce funding; which is a great new option people are using to help pay for their divorce. 

Let’s dive in...

Common Ways Of Paying For A Divorce

Let's take a look at some of the traditional ways people pay for their divorce:

A loan from family or friends

Borrowing from family or friends is actually a surprisingly common way for people to help fund their divorce. But while it may seem an easy and cheap option, there are a couple of key downsides to this approach:

1. Firstly, entering commercial arrangements with family or friends can become notoriously fraught when things don't work out the way the parties anticipated. If you borrow from family or friends, it’s a good idea to have the repayment terms drawn up in a formal contract.

2. When a court decides on your divorce settlement it will take into account any debts or loans you have. However, a loan from family or friends is treated as a “soft loan” by the courts, meaning they won’t take it into account, which could reduce the overall size of your settlement.

Bank loan or remortgage

Another option is to get a formal loan from your bank. If you have a good credit score you may be able to get an unsecured loan. Or, if you are a homeowner, releasing funds by extending your mortgage may be another option. But bear in mind that your home could be at risk if you don’t make all your repayments.

One of the main problems with traditional bank loans is that many banks will not lend to you for the purposes of legal fees, as they view the outcome (and repayment) to be uncertain.

  • You do not have sufficient funds to pay for legal representation;
  • You have been rejected for a bank or litigation loan;
  • You are not be entitled to Legal Aid, and;
  • Your solicitor is unwilling to enter a Sears Tooth Agreement (see below).
A legal services order can be made by the court, and it compels a wealthier spouse to pay the other partner’s legal costs.

These are very hard to get, as you need to show:

In a “Sears Tooth Agreement” your lawyer agrees to suspend your legal fees until the end of your case. Once you have received your settlement, your lawyer’s fees are then repaid directly from the settlement amount.

It’s not easy to get a solicitor to agree to this type of arrangement. The solicitor will need to feel sure that you will win a settlement amount that will be more than enough to cover their fees. In fact, many solicitors no longer offer this arrangement at all, as they now partner with specialist divorce funders who can help pay your fees instead.

We'll learn more about these specialist funders in the next section.

down hand emoji

The New Option: Specialist Divorce Funding

A new range of specialist lenders can now provide funding to help pay for the costs of your divorce.

They can provide you with upfront funding to pay for a lawyer and other legal costs, such as court fees. They charge simple, competitive interest rates, and you only repay at the end of your claim, directly from your settlement amount.

Unlike high street banks, these lenders are dedicated specialists who only lend for divorce and family law cases, and who work hand in hand with your chosen lawyer. They can provide funding for the whole of your case, and there’s no need for a credit check, as they lend based on the strength of your claim. Some can even provide help with your day to day living costs, as an alternative to <bloglink>interim maintenance<bloglink>.

Specialist funding is rapidly becoming one of the most convenient and cost-effective ways to fund your divorce.

Check out my Divorce Funding page to learn more:

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Neil Johnstone is a barrister and the founder of Neil is a barrister with an interest in all forms of civil and family law, and has appeared at all Court levels, up to and including the Court of Appeal.

Neil started this site in response to a common problem he noticed: Clients were unable to pursue deserving cases due to a lack of up-front funds. Neil knew that better access to No-Win-No-Fee representation and legal funding could help bridge the gap, and so founded; a unique comparison site connecting clients, law firms, and specialist funders.

About the author