Help to protect your financial interests during a divorce
4 min | 17 January 2022
Divorce is a huge life event that can leave you feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about so many things – especially money. Don’t worry; there are ways to help get your finances in order, turn divorce on its head and stride towards the next stage in your life.
How much does a divorce cost?
Here’s the thing: an average couple will spend about £14,500 on the legal and lifestyle costs of a divorce. That’s a massive sum, and in fact the figure is up on previous years. The legal fees make up about £2,600, meaning it’s the lifestyle expenses that sneak up on people. These can range from setting up a new home and buying a new car, to therapy sessions and spending more on childcare.
Hang in there, because you do have options to keep the costs down:
Uncontested divorce: You’ll pay less in legal fees if the divorce is uncontested (meaning both sides agree to the terms.) The person wanting the divorce will pay around £1,000 to £1,500 and the other will pay around £200 to £600. There’s also the ‘no fault’ divorce law, which removes the rule that one side has to take ‘blame’. It’s hoped this will mean fewer cases being contested in court, and reduced fees (and emotional stress) all round.
Mediation: When a couple can’t come to an agreement by themselves, they often turn to mediation. This involves a neutral third party helping them to reach agreements around money, parenting and division of assets. Costs can range from £750 to £1,500 per person (depending on how many sessions are needed.) And once agreements have been made, it’s really important to make them legal, through a consent order.
Sometimes you reach a dead end and the case does go to court. Here’s what you need to know:
Contested divorces: If the divorce is contested and the case ends up in court, the costs can begin to rocket. Solicitors’ legal fees alone can range from £10,000 to £15,000 in fairly straightforward cases, to £30,000 or more when it’s a more hostile divorce with more court appearances. This can be the worst-case scenario – not just because of the high fees – but the emotional costs on the whole family.
Protecting your finances
Divorce is about a physical separation, but it’s also about the separation of your assets. So where do you start when you’re trying to get to a clean financial slate after your divorce? Pull together any paperwork relating to your money, assets and estate, whether they’re jointly held or just in your name. This could include tax returns, mortgages, deeds, pension statements and any investment account details. List any outstanding debts, too.
Remember those ‘lifestyle’ costs? Make a note of how your spending and income has changed during your divorce. For example:
- If your income has dropped during the divorce
- If childcare costs have gone up because you’re a lone parent
- Any changes to the cost of daily living, including transport or bills
This will help you and your solicitor because you’ll be ready with the details when it comes to knowing your rights and reaching agreements. They’ll be able to let you know if and when to contact your bank if you have a joint account and any mortgage provider to tell them what’s happened. You’ll probably also want to open a new bank account in your own name if you don’t have one already.
For uncontested divorces, a Consent Order means you're not entitled to each other's money once the divorce is finalised.
When you’re ready to move on
There are things you can do after a divorce to help to protect your interests. Update your will if you have one – or think about making one. The same goes for life insurance policies and powers of attorney. This will help to protect your children and beneficiaries and give you some peace of mind going forward.
Going through a divorce is hard. But with the right knowledge and tools at the ready, you’ll hopefully feel more energised and focused on an exciting future – emotionally and financially.
- Aviva.com Press release dated 11 January 2018 "Cost of divorce and separation surpasses £14,500 for UK couples"
- Moneyadviceservice.org.uk 18 June September 2021 "How much does a divorce cost?"
- Nfm.org.uk About family mediation services page "Costs"
- Moneyadviceservice.org.uk Resource page "How much does divorce or dissolution cost?"