The general rule on who pays the legal fees in a divorce is that each person getting divorced will pay their legal costs, and the person applying for the divorce (the petitioner) will be responsible for covering the court fee (which is currently £593) and other fees.
Here are the FAQs our family solicitors are asked regarding who pays the legal fees in a divorce.
Does the petitioner always have to pay for the court fees?
No. In most cases, the petitioner pays the court fee; however, some couples agree to split the court fees between them. You can also make an application for costs from the other person.
Helping our clients file their divorce papers is only one of the many family law services at Stowe Family Law.
Can the petitioner claim for the divorce court costs?
If you are the petitioner, you can apply for costs from the other person (respondent).
Normally, a claim for costs will only be successful in the event of a marriage breakdown where a fault-based reason, or ‘fact for divorce’ has been relied upon, i.e. adultery, unreasonable behaviour, or desertion.
If you are on a low income or in receipt of state benefits including Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support, Income-related Employment, and Support Allowance and Universal credit, you can apply to the court for help with these fees by completing an EX160 form “Apply for help with fees”.
Talk with a Stowe divorce lawyer if you need help either finding or filling out the form.
How can the petitioner claim for divorce court costs?
If the petitioner wishes to apply for costs against the respondent, the best practice is to agree on costs before issuing the petition with the court. If costs cannot be agreed upon at that stage, the petitioner can include a claim for full costs in the petition itself.
If costs are agreed at the Decree Nisi stage, a ‘costs order’ can be made by agreement. If costs cannot be agreed upon, the petitioner can continue with their application for costs, and the court will decide. The court will consider if the costs claimed are reasonable and look at the conduct of both parties before and during the divorce process.
Does a respondent have to pay for divorce court costs?
If a costs order is made the respondent is under a legal obligation to comply and pay, and if there is a failure to do so, this could result in enforcement action being necessary.
It is strongly advised to try and reach an agreement on costs before the divorce is submitted to the court. The overwhelming majority of cases proceed undefended so that no attendance at court is required in connection with the divorce, but the issue of costs may see attendance at court necessary.
Additional costs may also be incurred if complications arise in proceedings, such as where a spouse does not file the Acknowledgement of Service with the court.
Can you get help with legal fees for a divorce?
It is possible to ask for government aid paid towards your legal costs.
Legal aid, as it is known, is available in certain circumstances such as:
If you are using it for mediation
If you have experienced domestic abuse in the last five years
If you are at risk of homelessness
Unfortunately, while we are a specialist family law firm, Stowe Family Law does not have a contract with the Legal Aid Agency and is, therefore, unable to offer legal aid to our clients.
Are legal fees higher for fault-based divorce, adultery, or unreasonable behaviour?
The court fee is a flat fee of £593 no matter what the reason for the divorce. However, the petitioner can apply for costs, and the success will partly depend on which reason, or “fact” is given.
Normally, a claim for costs will only be successful if there is a fault-based reason, i.e., adultery, unreasonable behaviour, or desertion.
If ‘blame’ is not attributed to the marriage breakdown, it is less likely that any claim for costs will be successful.
Is it recommended to claim for divorce court costs? Or can it hold up the process?
If the respondent does not agree to pay towards the costs of divorce, it could cause unnecessary issues, which may increase costs and delays.
Therefore, it is best practice to reach an agreement regarding the cost of divorce before the divorce petition is sent to the court.
Doing this can reduce the likelihood of the respondent challenging the issue of costs later on down the line.
Can you deduct legal fees for divorce from tax?
In short, no: a divorce lawyer’s fees are not tax-deductible except in very specific circumstances.
As a family law firm, this is not our area of expertise; talk with your accountant to get a clearer understanding of how this works.
Are there any other costs to consider in divorce?
Divorce often has two cost elements: itemised court fees and the solicitor’s costs for negotiating a financial settlement and child arrangements.
It is difficult to forecast how much the solicitor’s cost will be at the outset. It depends on several factors, including the willingness of both parties to negotiate and the complexity of the family finances and proposed child arrangements, if applicable.
The majority of cases are resolved by negotiation, usually via solicitors, once the financial disclosure has taken place, with each party bearing their own costs.
Whilst it is possible to apply for a costs order in certain circumstances, the outcome of such an application cannot be guaranteed, and the usual course is that each party covers their legal costs.
If a settlement is reached, we recommend the terms agreed are recorded in a consent order. There is a Court fee of £54, which is often split between the parties.
How to pay for legal fees in divorce
The person filing for divorce will pay the £593 filing fee when the papers are filed. The way you pay depends on how you apply. It is a non-refundable fee.
If you would like any advice on who pays the legal fees in a divorce, divorce, or other family law issues, please contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers.
We have local family solicitors in offices throughout the country, meaning there will be a Stowe lawyer for you no matter where you are based. Call today, fill in our online Contact Form, or request a call back at a time that suits you.