The costs of resolving the financial issues in divorce

It is almost always prudent to settle the financial issues arising from a divorce formally and finally. To understand exactly why this is so important please refer to the page about the case of Wyatt v Vince. Financial issues are not settled automatically. Action needs to be taken to deal with them and that action is separate from simply obtaining a divorce. The costs of obtaining a divorce are also separate from the costs arising from settling the financial issues between the spouses.

Please note that it is almost always wise to do this even if there are no assets, pensions or income worth talking about. In such a case the ‘settlement’ will probably simply be an order providing that neither party can make any future financial claim against the other but it still needs to be done. The case of Wyatt v Vince illustrates just how important this is.

The simplest, cheapest and best way to deal with financial issues is when both parties are agreed, they tell their lawyers and then the agreement gets drawn up formally. In that event the costs should be quite modest. There is a court fee to pay which is currently £53 (since September 2021) and if this firm does it then we typically charge £300. We do not charge VAT.

Now, if this is not going to happen you need to consider how you are going to get closure on financial issues. In cases which are not agreed but which are either contentious or protracted the only way a lawyer can charge is on a time basis. Our charges are as follows:-

13 pounds for each routine out-going letter, email or telephone call,
7 pounds for each routine in-coming email or letter and
140 pounds per hour for time otherwise spent (drafting documents,
interviewing clients etc).

We do not charge VAT.  The significance of the word “routine” is that it means one-page letters, short emails or five-minute telephone calls. Longer items are charged pro rata. Disbursements (payments to third parties) such as court fees etc may also need to be taken into account if they arise.

It is hard to tell how much an individual case of this nature  might ultimately cost. As has been mentioned above, if parties are in agreement and it is matter of submitting an agreed consent order to the court then the cost can be quite modest. 

On the other hand, if everything is contested and it results in a final hearing before a judge then the costs might be in the region of 8,000 to 9,000 pounds plus VAT if applicable. How much a  case costs if it is contested very much depends upon what the issues are  and upon the approach the parties take in the conduct of the litigation. An unreasonable or intransigent spouse can have a disproportionate impact  upon costs. In fact only a small percentage of cases fall into the category of needing a final hearing before a judge and most are settled at some intermediate point with costs correspondingly somewhere in between.

Please note that if a case has to go as far as full hearing before a judge who hears evidence then this will invariably result in a significant escalation in costs. That is because a barrister will need to be instructed. The cost of that is unlikely to be less than about £3,000 for a one day hearing including the preparation involved. That is where a big chunk of the £9,000 referred to above will be incurred.

Spouses involved in divorce in England always want to know on what basis the UK divorce law decides financial issues between husband and wife if the Courts have to decide the issue. Indeed, this is what is at the heart of most divorce cases. If there is a dispute it is more likely than not to be about money whether that is about periodical payments for a spouse, dividing the equity in the former matrimonial home or divorce and pensions. In fact, the relevant principles are set out in Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 which, essentially, reads:-

”It shall be the duty of the court in deciding whether to exercise its powers ….. to have regard to all the circumstances of the cases, first consideration being given to the welfare while a minor of any child of the family who has not attained the age of eighteen.

25 (1) It shall be the duty of the court in deciding whether to exercise its powers …. to have regard to all the circumstances of the case including the following matters, that is to say –

(a) the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;

(b) the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;

(c) the standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage;

(d) the age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage;

(e) any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage;

(f) the contributions made by each of the parties to the welfare of the family, including any contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family;

(g) …the value to either of the parties to the marriage of any benefit (for example, a pension) which … (by reason of the divorce) ..that party will lose the chance of acquiring;…”

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