A major concern for those considering divorce, is how to pay their legal fees and associated divorce costs. If you do not have a regular income or savings, then it may feel like you cannot fund your case. Beware of online divorce packages which can be misleading, charging for divorce forms which are free from the court website http://www.justice.gov.uk/forms. There are a range of options for funding legal support as set out below:
Acting in Person/ad-hoc advice
If you cannot afford to pay a solicitor to fully conduct your case then you can represent yourself and use a solicitor on an ad-hoc basis to give you advice from time to time. This is often a good option when assets and income are limited and you and your spouse are in agreement. It can be helpful for assistance to complete forms, preparation for court, or reviewing statements or disclosure.
Our fees are calculated in 6 minute units. It is possible for a client to pay funds on account limited to a number of hours work, and for sporadic advice to be taken as required for those individuals who do not want or require full representation by a solicitor.
Divorce proceedings are a paper-based exercise with no need to attend court in person, unless your spouse defends the petition. We can provide a one hour consultation (in person or via skype) with you to guide you through the court forms and advise you fully of the process, timeframe and costs. We carefully explain the legal terms to you and assist you to complete the forms, allowing you to conduct the process yourself in a cost efficient way.
Reaching a financial settlement can take time and become quite complex especially if you feel that your spouse is not disclosing their true assets, so it is wise to get advice from a solicitor before you accept a proposed financial settlement. A solicitor cannot advise you on the merits of the case without financial disclosure from yourself and your spouse. Using a professional will ensure that you protect your interests.
Loans from friends and family
You may be able to borrow money from friends and family to assist you with your legal fees. To ensure that the money is not considered as a ‘soft loan’ when it comes to settlement time, it is important that you draw up a loan agreement which is signed and dated explaining that it is a loan which will be paid back.
Commercial Loans / credit cards
Many banks will provide loans for legal fees and divorce costs. If income and savings are restricted, a loan can be helpful to allow your solicitor to carry out initial work (for example to commence a divorce, and get you to the stage where an agreement or court order is made for your income needs and legal fees to be met on a monthly basis).
There are companies in the UK who are happy to lend you money to pay for your divorce costs provided that there are some assets in the UK that they can secure the debt against. They will want to know the merits of your case, amount of equity in the property and whether they can secure a charge against the property. Contact us for a list of such litigation loan companies.
Legal Services Order
If the above options are not applicable in your case, as a last resort you can make an application to the court to request that your spouse pays your legal fees on a monthly basis. These orders are often made by the court in conjunction with orders for spousal and/or child maintenance. A solicitor will assist you to write a statement in support to your application setting out your income needs, how much income you receive a month, written refusals from two litigation loan companies and a schedule of all your costs to date. The court will also need evidence that your spouse can afford to pay your legal fees, so details of their salary will need to be shown to the court. A Judge can order that your spouse pays for all your current legal fees including arrears and your ongoing fees on a monthly basis.
At the same time as making an application for a legal services order you can also make an application for maintenance from your spouse (for yourself and any children) if the maintenance or income you are receiving is not sufficient to cover your income needs. If successful then a Judge will make an order for you to receive a certain amount of money by way of interim maintenance until the date of the Decree Absolute (the final stage of the divorce). You can also ask for back dated maintenance from your spouse.
In order to make an application to the court for a legal services order and maintenance pending suit, a divorce petition must have been issued.
For further information on how to pay your legal fees, please contact one of our solicitors who can advise you carefully of your options and guide you through each process.