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Funding your divorce

Funding_your_divorce

Media reports have it that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was writing a biography of William Shakespeare to fund his divorce from his second wife, Marina Wheeler. Others don’t have the luxury of penning a work of literature to pay for their divorce. So how much does it cost and how can you fund it?

At this firm, as well as offering a free 30 minute meeting, we offer a fixed fee for filing an undefended divorce, £500 plus VAT plus the court issue fee of £550, £1,150. “No fault divorce” is not due to come in until next April. Where one currently files for divorce on the basis of the other party’s adultery or behaviour, costs follow the event. In other words, one can claim one’s divorce costs from the party who committed adultery or whose behaviour is in question.

So much for the costs of the divorce. The majority of costs come in resolving financial and property matters unless there is an agreement at an early stage. One cannot rely on getting a costs order against the other spouse as such orders are only made if there has been litigation mis-conduct which is not easy to establish.

Legal aid is only available from a few franchised providers where there has been domestic violence and the party satisfies stringent means and merits tests.

So what other options are there to help fund a divorce matter? Many clients meet their legal costs from savings. The other option is to borrow. This firm accepts credit cards except for disbursements, items we have to pay out on the client’s behalf.

Try to get a loan from your bank. Whilst this will attract interest it will be seen as a formal liability for the purposes of setting out one’s financial position.

A good number of clients borrow from family. Where one borrows in this way the loan should be formalised with a loan agreement if possible. Even so, the courts are not likely to regard such “soft” loans in the same way as commercial borrowing.

There are an increasing number of specialist litigation loan providers, for example Novitas. However, it is not uncommon for rates of interest as high as 18% to be applied.

If the other spouse has means, then an application can be made for a legal services payment order. This means that your spouse is ordered to pay you a sum of money earmarked only for your legal costs. The law provides that the court “must not make a legal services order unless it is satisfied that without the amount the applicant would not reasonably be able to obtain appropriate legal services for the purposes of the proceedings or any part of the proceedings”. It also provides that the court must be satisfied in particular that the applicant is not reasonably able to secure a loan to pay for the services, and is unlikely to be able to retain the services by granting a charge over any assets recovered in the proceedings. So one has to go through a number of “hoops”, for example, to establish the inability to borrow, before one can make the application for a legal services payment order.

In the first instance, where a legal services payment order is made, the court would order funding up to the second financial hearing, the financial dispute resolution hearing. An application can be made to extend funding if the case proceeds to trial.

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Wednesday, 27 October 2021

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