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How does a fixed fee divorce work?
A fixed price divorce operates in the same way as any other divorce work done by a solicitor, but the fee you pay for the divorce is fixed upfront. It can be used for all divorces, and whilst some are complex emotionally, the process itself is rather simple. That said, additional challenges, such as financial settlements or arrangements for any children, whilst not forming part of the divorce process itself, are part of the overall settlement picture and it is often better to get those issues nailed down before obtaining the Decree Absolute.
If, during the course of your initial interview, a solicitor finds elements that are too complicated for a fixed fee divorce, they will usually advise you and agree a way forward, such as using a blended fee structure, where more straightforward parts of the divorce are dealt with under a fixed fee, with more complex work done under an hourly rate service for example. That said, most divorces in England and Wales are not contested, in fact, 99% of all divorces move forward undefended.
Do all firms have to offer fixed fee divorce?
No, though in recent years, fixed fee billing has become more common. According to a recent survey, 74% of those firms surveyed mentioned alternative pricing models on their websites. There is no obligation on any firm to offer fixed fee divorces, however, to remain competitive, most do. Although, the cost of the fixed fee and what is included within it vary from firm to firm and the area of the UK the firm is situated.
What is typically included in a fixed fee divorce?
- Advising on the grounds for divorce, the claims within the petition, and its likely timescales
- If you are the petitioner, completion of the divorce petition, application for Decree Nisi/Decree Absolute
- Advice on the divorce process
- Preparing and submitting your response to the divorce petition, called the “Acknowledgement of Service”
- Advising following receipt of the Decree Nisi/Decree Absolute
- Correspondence between you and your spouse, and the court
- Overseeing the divorce process and keeping you updated throughout
It is important to check with your solicitor what is included within your package. The above list indicates what is included but is not a rigid set of criteria. Some firms separate fixed fee divorce packages into “Petitioner” and “Respondent”. Generally, the Petitioner package is more expensive than the Respondent package because it reflects the greater level of work involved.
As a general rule, the fixed fee approach applies to straightforward divorces where both parties agree. If however, disagreement or other complexities creep in to the process from either spouse and the solicitors are required to correspond with each other to resolve those issues, then this work will typically be outside of the fixed fee.
What is not typically included in a fixed fee divorce?
- Contested divorce proceedings (if you wish to defend the grounds for divorce)
- Any court fees, such as the issue fee for the divorce petition, or process server fees
- The cost of obtaining a copy of the marriage certificate (if you do not have it)
- Enforcing a costs order
- A cross-petition. This is where the Respondent disagrees with the grounds claimed in the divorce petition, and issues their own
- Court representation (although, in practice, almost all divorce cases are dealt with on paper)
- Any legal advice or work needed to resolve finances and the financial settlement or any associated work concerning the family home or pensions
- Disputes, advice, or work surrounding arrangements for the children (although some firms do offer a separate fixed fee child arrangements package, so it is always worth asking)
The above list is merely an indication and will vary between cases and from firm to firm. If you are in any doubt as to what is included within the package you have agreed, it is always best to contact your solicitor and ask them to explain it further to you.
Can the firm be forced to keep to the fixed fee they quoted?
Solicitors are subject to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Price Transparency Rules. These rules require firms to publish their prices and service information on their website. The rules were introduced to assist potential clients make an informed decision about their choice of solicitor. The reality is, that even where fixed fee divorces are provided, they can be challenging to implement in cases which can be unpredictable or complex.
Your solicitor should keep you advised of the cost, usually at milestone events, such as issuing a divorce petition, or Decree Nisi stage. And if there is any indication the costs are going to exceed the fixed fee, they should give you reasons together with a revised cost estimate. You can then make an informed decision about whether to continue.
In most firms, the fixed fee will have been carefully calculated, but as a matter of good practice, at the outset of the case, a solicitor should also give you a costs estimate based on the proposed work to complete your case, and full details of their complaint’s procedure. If you do not receive a satisfactory response, then you can make a further complaint to the SRA.
Making a fixed fee divorce work for you
A fixed fee divorce is suited to anyone seeking a divorce who has a genuine desire to benefit from the expertise of a solicitor whilst managing the cost. It allows you to better plan and manage your expenses, giving you the benefit of:
- Predictability – the costs of the divorce are known in advance and won’t give you any surprises at the end.
- Peace of mind – there is no need for you to be concerned about the hours ascribed to seeing the divorce through to the end mounting up because they are already built into the cost of the fixed fee
- Expert guidance – a fixed fee forces a solicitor to reflect upon their strategy, steering them towards a more collaborative approach.
If you are still confused about how the fixed fee process for your chosen solicitor will work or what it entails, most offer an initial fixed fee consultation or free consultation and will be more than willing to talk you through what you can expect and to help you through every aspect of your divorce.
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The information on this website is to be considered a guide and is therefore not legal advice. You use this information with the understanding that Wiselaw does not accept liability for any direct or indirect losses as a result of anyone relying on or acting upon the information on this website. Whilst we endeavour to provide accurate information, Wiselaw does not accept liability for any errors or omissions on this website.