Typically, the general rule is that both parties will pay their own legal fees – e.g. the cost of hiring a family lawyer – while the person filing for divorce, known as the petitioner, will be responsible for paying Court fees and any other costs incurred during the divorce process. However, it is possible for a petitioner to recover costs.
The question of who pays divorce costs is not as cut and dried as it’s often made out to be. While the general rule is that the petitioner is responsible for divorce costs, if blame is being assigned by the petitioner against the respondent for the breakdown of a marriage, then the petitioner is legally entitled to have the respondent pay the costs.
Should the Court sanction a divorce, then once the Decree Nisi stage is reached, a respondent can be ordered to cover the petitioner’s costs as well as their own.
Under what circumstances can a petitioner claim for divorce costs?
Generally a petitioner can seek for a respondent to pay fee if they’re filing for divorce on the following grounds:
- Unreasonable behaviour
The Court will not issue an order for the respondent to pay the costs associated with divorce if it’s based on two years’ separation with consent or five years’ separation.
An order for a respondent to pay costs for a divorce will most likely be successful if one of the fault-based reasons is attributed to the breakdown of a marriage.
Claiming backs costs for divorce
It is recommended that a petitioner agrees divorce fees in writing with a respondent, prior to a divorce petition being submitted to the Court. This will reduce the likelihood of the respondent challenging a divorce based on the issue of costs. Agreeing costs on an amicable basis will reduce the number of Court hearings and disputes.
If a petitioner and a respondent cannot agree on divorce costs, and a petition is filed, then the Court will most likely have to intervene to decide on the validity of a Costs Order.
When deciding the outcome of a Costs Order, the Court will factor in any family lawyer fees paid by the petitioner. More importantly, they will factor in the conduct of both parties during divorce proceedings.
If a Costs Order is granted in favour of a petitioner, then a respondent is required to pay the fees by law. Failure to do so will likely result in enforcement action and further costs being added.
Holland Family Law fixed fee packages
To help keep your divorce costs down, Holland Family Law offers fixed fee, uncontested divorce packages for petitioners and respondents. If both parties agree to a divorce, our fixed fee packages outline the legal fees and Court fees you will pay, including VAT.
Our fixed fee packages specify exactly what’s included and what’s not included, with any service outside those mentioned subject to our hourly rates.
If you instruct us on the basis that you’re filing for divorce on the grounds of adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour, and your petition is upheld by the Court, we can help you apply for a Costs Order to recover the fees you pay to us.