Simple guide to divorce options 2023
You’ve decided you’re going to divorce, turning your world upside down and leading to weeks or even months of arguments and tears. You’re just starting to accept this is going to happen and you need to speak to someone but where to start?
This guide will cover all the available options you can take to get a divorce. We will cover: what a divorce is, how you can get one and what it might cost.
When you or I talk about ‘getting divorced’ we use it as a general term to mean the whole thing. The separation, the telling the kids, the moving homes, the selling things, and the agreeing parenting time with each other. It’s likely to be a prolonged and emotional process that generally follows the steps below:
- One or both of you decide that your marriage is over
- If one person instigates the separation, there is a period where the other person comes to terms with the decision before you can move on.
- If you have children you need to make some important decisions regarding them such as where they will live and how you will care for them. This is known as a parenting plan.
- You need to decide where you will live
- You need to decide how to split things you own such as cars and investments.
- Submitting the divorce/dissolution paperwork to legally end the marriage/ dissolve the civil partnership (all references to divorce below will apply equally to civil partnerships). The official process involves submitting the divorce application, waiting for the 20-week 'cooling-off' period which starts once the divorce is issued, then applying for the Conditional Order (formerly the Decree Nisi). Six weeks and one day later you can apply for the Final Order (formerly the Decree Absolute).
- A legal professional such as a solicitor, or an amicable expert will write up the financial agreements. This document is called a consent order and is legally binding. Although this stage is optional, it is strongly advised.
Most people’s starting point for help is the internet and amid the vast quantities of information available, you will see various offers from online divorce companies to assist with the legal paperwork. Be wary of such divorce-diagnostic, if the price seems too good, it probably is.
So what does this mean in the context of above?
Remember, most of these divorce-diagnostic offering to manage your divorce simply fill out the forms for you to submit to a court which will legally dissolve your marriage, i.e. step 6 on the list above. That alone doesn’t complete a divorce. Unless you are on certain benefits you will have to pay a court fee of £593 in addition to the service fee. So you’re looking at a minimum of £593 unless you are eligible for money off the court fees. This also assumes you have discussed and agreed all the steps from 1 – 4 and have documented all agreements in your divorce application.
In reality, it is agreeing on the parenting plan and the financial decisions (steps 3 and 4 above) that can require lots of time and energy to navigate successfully and there will need to be evidence of everything being agreed for a judge to grant your agreements and for your divorce to be finalised.
We will therefore focus solely on the options that apply to steps 3 & 4 above and the financial implications of each option. Should you wish to discuss the other steps, please book in a call to speak to one of our Divorce Specialists.
Use a mediator
A mediator is an independent, trained professional that helps you and your partner to work out agreements for children or finances. It’s a more amicable alternative to lengthy and expensive court proceedings.
- You and your partner stay in complete control of the process – the decisions and the timetable
- Mediation is a less expensive option than using a solicitor (where many people mistakenly think they have to start)
- You only need one mediator between you – whereas you must have a solicitor each (so it doubles the cost)
- Mediation saves times - government figures show that mediation takes on average 4 months for the couple to resolve their issues. Whereas other processes take, on average, 13 months
- A mediator is trying to help you find a good solution for you and your family. If you succeed in coming up with a way forward it has the potential to improve your relationship, helping you to effectively co-parent
- Your partner may not agree to mediation or may walk out before agreements have been made
- A legal professional (ie. a solicitor or an amicable expert) is still needed to turn what you have agreed into a consent order
- If you don’t find the right mediator or you don’t make progress in the meetings due to one party being reluctant to embrace the process, then it could be wasted money
- The cost of Mediation is approx. £500 – £1500 not including the cost of legalising any agreements made
Use a Family Consultant (FC)
Family Consultants work in a similar way to mediators and can be the right divorce option for some couples. They will engage your partner in the process, help you both prepare emotionally and facilitate your conversations to come to agreements about parenting and finances.
A Family Consultant will probably have a psychological qualification rather than a mediation qualification. They are likely to focus on the emotional journey and improving your parenting relationship.
- You only need one (not one each) and the managing of emotions makes it one of the most amicable ways of dealing with your divorce or separation
- Family consultants usually charge about £100- £200 per hour (similar to a mediator and a lot cheaper than a solicitor)
- Family consultants often work with local non-conflict lawyers and be able to recommend a lawyer who will work to get your agreement translated into a legal document rather than unpick it
- Family consultants will help with the parenting plan as well as the financials
- As with mediation both partners need to be positive about the process and looking to move on
- Family consultants are quite few and far between so there might not be one near you
- You will still need further assistance legalising your agreements
Out of all the different options, this is one of the cheapest out there. This involves doing the process yourself and is a cost-effective divorce option but carries risks and requires time, effort, and emotional headspace to understand the legal process and where to find accurate information.
- The more you do yourself the cheaper the divorce process will be
- If you and your partner can agree on the way forward, you are likely to be able to co-parent well together post-divorce
- There is the potential of making a mistake or one partner taking advantage of the other
- It is only practical if you and your partner can sit around the table and reach agreements on the practical arrangements. If emotions keep getting in the way of this then it can be a big challenge
With all the options above, there is the potential that you still can’t reach an agreement and therefore things escalate. If that happens then you need to turn towards more specialist help, there are two main options at this point.
Use a solicitor
Using a solicitor is one of, if not the most used divorce option out there. But it is not the cheapest divorce option and can be an expensive one. A solicitor can manage the entire process from step 3 onwards and will deal with your partner’s solicitor. Under English and Welsh law, you need separate solicitors. This means the hourly cost is doubled.
- If you can’t bear to be in the same room as your partner, then this divorce option avoids this as the solicitors will deal with each other and you can minimise contact
- It minimises (although doesn’t remove) individual effort because someone manages the whole process
- There is the possibility of you getting a “better deal” if your solicitor does a good job. However, please don’t forgot that this is at the expense of your partner and potentially your children
- A solicitor will be able to handle your divorce paperwork
- You need to find the right solicitor for you
- This divorce option is likely to lead to more rather than less confrontation as your solicitor is aiming to get the best deal for you as an individual rather than the family as a whole
- Expectations are set at the outset which can lead to a lot of resentment if they aren’t met. It can be very expensive to be stuck in a particular “position”
- Costs can mount up quickly, average divorce lawyers charge between £200 – £400 an hour. You should plan for a minimum of £5000 if you are using solicitors to manage the whole divorce process
amicable combines the above processes and reduces acrimony and spiralling legal costs associated with divorce. amicable provides a divorce option that promotes cooperation, making the process more affordable and less emotionally draining.
- amicable manages the legal paperwork allowing you to focus on the things that really matter, enabling you to re-build your lives post-divorce
- Our amicable Divorce Specialists are here to help you reach an agreement on financial and childcare arrangements
- Our Consent Order Specialists draft your consent order and liaise with the court on your behalf. If the court agrees that your financial split is fair, your agreement will be made legally binding
- We can help with steps three onwards
- The amicable approach to divorce uniquely works with you both together rather than pitting you against each other
- More expensive than the DIY option
- Depending on how involved you would like us, this alters how much you will spend on our divorce-diagnostic. If you are prepared to do some of the work such as negotiate a settlement yourselves, you will save money on our service fees
- If you can’t agree, you may still end up going through court
Going to court
Going to court to have a judge decide for you can be one of the most acrimonious and expensive paths to take. Sometimes negotiations can go nowhere or one or more of the following situations may occur which can lead you to the courts:
- Your partner puts family assets beyond your reach and will not disclose assets*
- Your partner refuses to negotiate or go to mediation
- You are in an abusive or violent relationship (and it is not safe to negotiate)
- You aren’t making any progress in mediation or through solicitors
*People often mistakenly think a court can force their partner to disclose their assets. The court has little power other than to draw inferences from the non-disclosure. Whichever process you use you can re-open the case if you find evidence of non-disclosure at a later date.
If this happens the court will decide for you on anything you can't agree on. This is then made legally binding in the financial order.
The costs of hiring a solicitor for a court process are high. You may also need representation by a barrister if the case goes to a final hearing. A recent report estimated that the average cost of divorce through the court is £40,000 in London per person (£80,000 total) and outside London £13,000 per person*.
*as of when this blog was published
Appointing an Arbitrator
A new divorce option to solving point 4 (the financial matters) is to consider family arbitration. You and your partner appoint an arbitrator to make a decision (under English & Welsh law) on any financial and property issues arising from the breakdown of your relationship that you haven’t been able to agree upon.
They can make decisions on single issues or entire financial cases. The arbitrator will make a decision that will be final and binding between you. This is a "private court" and cheaper and quicker than going to court. Arbitrators charge by the hour and the exact rate varies widely and more qualified arbitrators may charge thousands of pounds to settle cases.
At amicable, we place ‘creating a positive future post-divorce’ at the top of our priorities, as well as the needs of both you and your family.
Our primary focus is to reduce acrimony and it’s crucial to lessening the impact of divorce on any children involved.
amicable’s tech-enabled approach simplifies and streamlines the process whilst including the all-important human touch via our Divorce Specialists.
amicable’s co-parenting app helps you with step 3, and the transition from parent to co-parents.
Try for free for 30 days here.
To find out more please contact us.
If you have any questions, or would like some support, please book a free 15-minute call with one of our experts here.
How long does a straightforward divorce take?
A straightforward divorce takes a minimum of 7 months to be completed. If you have financial arrangements to make and want your agreements made legally binding, you will need a consent order, which takes longer.
Can you divorce someone straight away?
If you’ve been married for at least a year, have your marriage certificate and an address for your ex, then you can start submit divorce application straightaway. You will also need to pay a court fee.
I can’t afford a divorce lawyer, what are my options?
Some of the most common cost-effective options include DIY divorce, using a negotiation service like amicable, or using a mediator.
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