Who Pays for a Divorce?

Jun 22, 2020   ·   5 minute read
Finances in divorce concept. Wife and husband can not make settlement holding piggy bank sitting at table looking at each other with hatred

The question ‘’who pays for a divorce?’’ is sometimes one of the most contentious issues in the decision to separate. Whitefield divorce solicitors say that the issue of who pays for the divorce can be more difficult to negotiate than your financial settlement or even child custody arrangements. That is because, although politicians are legislating for ‘no fault divorce ‘ when you split up from a husband, wife or civil partner you often want to blame someone for the split and make them pay. In this blog we look at the question of who pays for the divorce.

Divorce Costs

The general rule on who pays the divorce costs is that a husband, wife or civil partner will each pay their own divorce legal costs unless the court makes an order requiring one party to make a contribution towards or to pay all of their spouse’s divorce costs.


If the government introduces no fault divorce then it is less likely that the court will make orders requiring one spouse to pay towards the other spouse’s divorce costs. At present (June 2020), a spouse is normally only ordered to pay towards the divorce costs, or to pay the full divorce proceedings costs, if divorce proceedings are started because of:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour.


How much does a divorce cost?


The person applying for a divorce (called the petitioner) will have their own legal fees plus the court fee to pay. The court fee is set by the government and is currently £550.


The person responding to the divorce will have their own legal fees to pay. However, the legal fees are likely to be less than those of a petitioner (as normally there is less legal work to do) and there are no court fees payable by a respondent.


The cost of a divorce can normally be quoted as a fixed fee provided that, for example:

  • The divorce isn’t contested by the person responding to the divorce petition
  • The whereabouts of the respondent to the divorce petition are known
  • There are no jurisdiction disputes on whether the petitioner has the right to start divorce proceedings in England or if the divorce proceedings should be started overseas
  • The respondent co-operates with the divorce and completes the necessary paperwork. 

Why does the petitioner pay more for divorce proceedings?


A solicitor will charge the person who starts the divorce proceedings more than the spouse who responds to the divorce proceedings because there is a lot more work involved in helping a petitioner. Whitefield divorce solicitors are asked if you should let your husband or wife start the divorce proceedings so they pay the higher divorce bill but at Evolve Family Law we normally advise against that because:

  • If your spouse starts the divorce proceedings they can decide what gets put in the divorce petition
  • If your husband or wife begins the divorce they may decide that they don’t want a quick divorce and what should take a matter of a few months could take a lot longer leaving you in emotional and financial limbo
  • It may not be in your financial interests to wait for your spouse to start divorce proceedings, for example, if there are concerns about divorce proceedings jurisdiction, threats that your spouse may be made bankrupt, worries that your husband or spouse will hide assets or the concern that until you get your decree absolute of divorce the pension administrators won’t be able to implement your pension sharing order
  • If you reach a financial settlement with your husband or wife the divorce court doesn’t have the power to convert it into a financial court order until your decree nisi of divorce has been pronounced and the court can’t enforce the financial court order for you until you have your decree absolute of divorce.


It is always best to speak to a divorce solicitor about the advisability of agreeing to your husband or wife starting the divorce proceedings as there may be reasons that you haven’t thought of as to why letting them do so really isn’t in your best financial interests.


Can divorce costs be agreed?

Divorce costs can be agreed between a husband and wife or civil partners. For example:

  • The respondent can agree to pay all the divorce petition court fee or half of the court fee or
  • The respondent to the divorce can agree to contribute to the petitioner’s divorce costs so that the husband and wife both pay the same amount in divorce legal fees. A respondent should only do this if the petitioner has agreed a fixed fee divorce with their solicitor. That way the respondent knows the potential cost liability rather than the divorce costs being left open ended.

You might also be interested in

What are the legal costs of a separation?

In addition to the legal costs of a divorce you may also incur legal fees in connection with:

  • Advice on child custody and contact and, if you can’t reach an agreement, representation in court proceedings for a child arrangements order
  • Advice on your financial settlement options and supporting you through family mediation or negotiating a financial settlement for you or representing you in court proceedings for a financial court order.


There is a lot that you can do to minimise your legal fees but it is best to get some divorce legal advice to make sure that any financial settlement or childcare arrangements meet your needs and those of your children.

Our Whitefield Divorce Solicitors

Whitefield, Manchester and Holmes Chapel based Evolve Family Law solicitors cover all aspects of divorce and family law. Call us or complete our online enquiry form to set up a face to face meeting, video conference or telephone appointment.