More couples opt for DIY divorce as legal fees rise

The Momentum UK Team 19 August 2013

With incomes squeezed by living costs and legal fees increasing more and more couples are using DIY divorce websites to save money when they separate.

The legal fees involved in a “simple” divorce are now at £2,500 in London, and are rising nationally with London, Bournemouth and Cardiff topping the list of most expensive places to get divorced. As a result, DIY divorce websites are reporting a sharp rise in the number of couples using them.

These online services offer all of the paperwork for under £50, however some lawyers have said that these types of service are only appropriate for amicable splits where the divorce settlement is uncontested, but should be used with caution. If there are custody issues or disagreements about division of assets, complications can arise a lawyer may be required.

While online divorce services offer the paperwork at a budget price, they do not include the cost of court fees. These usually come in at around £350 but can run into the thousands in a complicated case.

The DIY divorce website Divorce Depot claims that, despite the national divorce rate falling by 2% last year to 128,000 in England, Scotland and Wales, legal fees for more traditional ways to get divorced are on the rise. Susan Eskinazi, a consultant at Divorce Depot, said:

“It is not surprising that the capital city boasts the most expensive divorce solicitor rates in the UK. However what is somewhat unexpected is the number of cities in the north of England that made it into the top ten, given the income divide between the north and south of England.”

Changes to legal aid rules brought into effect this April mean that couples on low incomes no longer automatically qualify for financial help with their divorce. Only victims of domestic abuse, child protection issues and forced marriages now qualify.

Eskinazi went on to highlight the regional impact of this change:

“With more than 200,000 people this year no longer eligible for legal aid, people are struggling to meet the costs of divorce themselves and none will feel it more keenly than in the north where the average wage is lower than in the south."