Breaking Up Is Hard to do

Breaking up does not have to be hard to do

Posted by
James Harbottle
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Breaking up does not have to be hard to do

When Neil Sedaka penned his famous hit song Breaking Up Is Hard to Do way back in 1962 he can hardly have realised that he was coining a phrase that would be used by divorce commentators ever after. The latest example comes from the BBC last week in an article entitled Love and money: Why breaking-up is so hard to do.

Lauren Preedy - Senior Associate Solicitor - Head of Divorce and Relationships Team
Lauren Preedy – Senior Associate Solicitor – Head of Divorce and Relationships Team

The article examines the financial cost of divorce in terms of legal expenses, and how that cost can be a “huge barrier” to getting divorced for those of limited means.

As we will see, it is true that certain costs may not be avoidable, but does it have to be the case that legal costs are so high that they can be a barrier to divorce? That obviously depends upon your budget, but there are ways to keep the costs to a minimum.

Unavoidable costs

As the article mentions, there is one type of expense that you will not be able to avoid, even if you are doing the divorce yourself, without a solicitor: court fees.

There is a £550 fee just to issue divorce proceedings. And if you need to apply to the court for a financial remedies order or a child arrangements order there will be additional fees to pay, of £255 and £215 respectively.

There is, however, an exemption to the payment of court fees for those who have little or no savings, are on certain benefits or have a low income.

There may also be other unavoidable costs, depending upon what the divorce involves, for example in relation to the valuation of assets, or other experts’ fees.


Settling out of court

Of course the best way to keep the cost of the divorce to a minimum is to settle all matters by agreement, in particular in relation to the financial settlement and arrangements for any dependent children. Everyone involved in divorce proceedings should attempt to resolve matters by agreement, and any competent solicitor will help them do so.

And if agreement cannot be reached by negotiation between the parties, even with the help of lawyers, then there are other options.

Perhaps the main option is mediation, whereby the parties jointly instruct a trained mediator to help them try to resolve issues by agreement, without going to court (save, perhaps to have any agreement put into a court order).

And if mediation is not for you, another possibility is collaborative law, which is a sort of cross between mediation and traditional solicitor/solicitor meetings, whereby each party appoints their own collaboratively trained lawyer and they and their lawyers all meet together to work things out face to face.


When it’s not possible to settle

But sometimes it’s simply not possible to settle matters by agreement – one party may not be prepared to negotiate reasonably, or perhaps the two sides are just too far apart.

In such a situation the case will have to be decided by the court. However, there are still ways in which legal expenses can be kept to a minimum.

Perhaps the main point here is one that may come as a surprise: the importance of instructing an expert family lawyer. Surely, you may think, lawyers only increase the costs? Not true.

A big problem for those who do not take expert legal advice is that they don’t understand what issues are relevant to the case, and what are not. This is particularly so in family proceedings, where emotions run high and parties are anxious to make every point they can, oblivious to whether it is actually relevant.

A good family lawyer will tell their client what is or is not relevant. In this way, only matters that will affect the court’s final decision are argued, thereby keeping the legal costs to a minimum.

Finally, there is a way of getting the case decided when agreement cannot be reached, that does not involve going to court: arbitration. Arbitration involves the parties appointing a suitably qualified person (an “arbitrator”) to adjudicate the dispute and make an award, and can be much quicker and cheaper than contested court proceedings.