The True Cost of getting divorced
Making the decision to get divorced is a big emotional decision. One of the hugest decisions you could ever take in your life. Many people get to the end of the line, there isn’t anywhere else to turn but separation and eventual divorce. And once that decision is made the legal process can start. Here is the true cost of getting divorced.
The 28th May 2020 marked the day when my decree absolute was granted. Just under a year after the separation conversation (2nd June 2019) to the end, including ten months of living together. Closure.
I want to share this post for all people who are struggling, thinking about divorce, internal thoughts ripping them apart. There is always a way out. It takes time, emotional labour (so much emotional labour) and money. But then freedom, a new chapter, closure. The true cost of getting divorced in all ways.
Counselling is recommended before decisions are made
Before you come to this decision you might want to try counselling, and this is not free. Relate, is around £75 per session (2023 prices) and be prepared for a waiting list. I decided to go with a recommended private counsellor at £65 per session and then a few joint counselling sessions, at £90 per session.
These sessions will help you come to a decision as to whether the relationship is truly over or is recoverable. Personally, the sessions helped to confirm it was over. Our marriage counsellor was Bob Brotchie, based near Newmarket, I have found counselling is just as effective on Zoom.
Decision made. The marriage is over.
As soon as your decision is made (I wrote this personal post – Should I Stay or Should I Go?) , and you have the discussion with your partner, and you decide it is time to start the divorce process make an appointment with a recommended ( by friends who have divorced) solicitor. The first session will be at a reduced rate, which varies from one solicitor to the next. My first session was £90. Ross Williams in Hitchin are amazing, both Sarah Cousins and Neil Donald are incredible family law solicitors. Again these things can be done over Zoom, but I have admit the face to face meeting were a comfort and an essential to me.
During this first session you can explain the whole situation to the solicitor. It will greatly help if you can send them an email before this session with an outline of the situation and the basic financial details.
The first session was spent going through what I wanted from the divorce. In terms of parental agreements and financial arrangements. At each point the solicitor would qualify how likely my asks were to happen.
We also spent time talking through the legal process and the different routes a divorce can take. I took furious notes. At the end of this you decide if you want to appoint them as your solicitor.
Every divorce is different, everybody reacts differently so you do need to be prepared for lots of eventualities. And be prepared to negotiate and compromise over lots.
The process started with trying out mediation. In fact, you must have at least one session of mediation each and tick that box. Each of my mediation sessions were £90 each. My mediator was recommended by my solicitor, Aurora family mediation in Hitchin, Nicolette our mediator was a solicitor so understands the system with compassion.
My first mediation session was alone, and I spent more time telling the mediator about the situation and they explained how mediation works and how much it costs. At the end of the session they ask, do you think you can continue with mediation. I said yes, provided my partner agrees.
My ex-partner had the same mediation session and agreed to progress to a first joint mediation session.
There will be a 4-6-week gap between this session and the first joint session. The aim is to come up with a jointly agreed agreement with help from the mediator for childcare arrangements and financial arrangements. The gap is longer as a lot of information need to be gathered from both parties of all financial assets, everything single asset and liability needs to be provided with bank statements, pension statement, everything.
After this first joint session you are likely to know if you and your partner will be able to reach an agreement via the mediation route. Each of my mediation sessions cost £180, £90 each.
It is recommended that you need anything from two to five joint sessions. The mediator will then turn the discussions into a memorandum of agreement which goes back to your solicitor who will then write a consent order. Just one solicitor writes this, the other checks it meets all the requirements.
The full mediation process along with documents produced is going to cost you around £2,500 each including the solicitor cost of sending the initial paperwork and then consent order to court and getting the decree nisi, then later the decree absolute.
Most divorces (around 90%) are settled via mediation. It is the cheapest and quickest route by far.
Of course, divorce is hard, and you might not be able to come an agreement at the mediator. They generally only work if both divorce parties are at the same emotional level, and financial understanding level. When there is disparity and emotions, mediation is going to be very challenging.
Avoid Unnecessary Contract Negotiation!
In my experience there was a lot of additional and unnecessary cost at the consent order stage. The order drafted (by my ex-partners solicitor as he petitioned the divorce) was not what had been agreed in mediation so there were lots of emails going back and forth between solicitors, this an extra £1000 each. Try to minimise this, this will require compromise and negotiation with your ex-partner. Try to remember that every email or letter is costing you maybe £200, money that will reduce the settlement amount.
If Mediation Fails
If mediation fails, the next route is for the solicitors to agree the consent order (financials and childcare arrangements). You will most likely know if mediation is going to work after the first joint session. It is recommended that you go back to your solicitor after the first mediation session to discuss a way forward. If you decide at this point to go no further at least it has just cost you two sessions worth of mediation costs.
A divorce agreed between solicitors is more time consuming, but they are the expert negotiators, sorting out your best interests. They will agree the consent order and paperwork to go to court. The cost of this option is around £5,000 each.
If the divorce agreement fails at this stage it will need to go to a court for a judge to decide. The case can end up going to court three times until a final hearing and judgement. Each court hearing will set you back £5,000 each time in court costs, barrister costs and your solicitor costs.
Worst case you could go through mediation at £2,500, then solicitor costs at £5,000, then three court appearance at £5,000 each. That is £22.5k EACH in legal costs. The only winner here is the solicitor. This is money in my eyes that could stay in my estate for my children, not being needlessly spent on legal costs. But needs must and if it a difficult divorce then court will be neccessary.
I would much rather stick to the mediation route and the solicitor only costs. 90% of divorces are settled out of court.
Or course you can represent yourself in court and not have a solicitor act on your behalf. On your head be it. Hey, I am a fully qualified accountant and I use an accountant to do my books. Personally, I would use a solicitor for something as huge as a divorce.
This is not a sponsored post, I paid full price for my solicitor costs but HIGHLY recommend Ross Williams as the best solicitors to sort out any legal matters, from family law to complex wills, to business law and property law. All three partners (Sarah Cousins, Neil Donald, and Emma Halpin) are approachable and down to earth.