Divorce bills: Brexit or otherwise
As Article 50 has now been triggered we are set to hear yet more about the ‘Brexit divorce bill’. This has been estimated at tens of billions of pounds by various sources but at the moment the actual cost is completely unclear.
To a certain extent comparisons can be drawn with the bills for divorcing couples everywhere. It is often very difficult to know at the outset what issues may arise and what parties’ ultimate legal costs might be.
In terms of the actual divorce process itself this is usually dealt with on paper and costs are relatively easy to estimate. Assuming a divorce proceeds undefended and there are no unusual issues with regards to service and so on then we would normally estimate that the costs for the petitioner or applicant (the person who starts the divorce) would be in the region of £500 – £750 plus VAT together with the court fee of £550. The cost for a respondent will ordinarily be much less because there is very little work that needs to be undertaken by them.
The petitioner / applicant is entitled within their divorce petition to ask that the respondent pay their legal costs (limited to the divorce and not in relation to issues regarding children or finances) and often what happens is that a compromise is reached so that the overall divorce costs are shared meaning that each party may end up paying around £600-£700.
Costs of resolving financial issues and issues relating to children
Where matters can become more uncertain are in relation to the areas of children and financial issues. In both of those areas the usual rule is that each party will pay their own costs.
If a party has been completely unreasonable in their stance or approach then it is sometimes possible to obtain an order that they meet your costs but it is difficult. With finances this might happen if somebody has failed to disclose something relevant or refuses to engage in the process properly. In children matters it is very rare.
Keeping costs in proportion
It is inevitable that parties will be concerned about costs and it is important that costs are kept proportionate at every stage.
There are sometimes ways of limiting costs which might include parties undertaking certain tasks or even part of the negotiations themselves. Whether this is appropriate really depends on the nature of the case and the parties involved. In some circumstances this can actually lead to costs being increased because matters are not dealt with properly.
It is often impossible to estimate the total costs of resolving matters at the outset (much like with Brexit) because we cannot know when parties may reach an agreement or what issues may arise but cost estimates linked to various stages of the process and updates should be provided. If you are a client and you have any questions about costs you should raise those with your solicitor sooner rather than later.