The term ‘divorce costs’ can be unclear and, to the person being asked to pay those costs, it can be confusing.
However, ‘divorce costs’ are limited to those costs incurred in the process of ending the marriage – from preparing the Divorce Petition to applying for the Decree Nisi and to obtaining the Decree Absolute which dissolves the marriage and does not include any costs in relation to any associated children or financial matters.
Before the petition is issued with the court it is good practice to send a draft petition to the respondent this will alert the respondent to the fact that costs are going to be claimed. If, as a respondent, you object to paying costs then this is the time to resolve the issue of costs.
It may be possible to agree that costs are shared or that costs are limited to a particular level. The petitioner’s solicitor will either charge a fixed fee for the divorce or alternatively will be asking for the costs to be assessed by the court, if not agreed. By costs, we mean the fee that the solicitor claims for all the work done in the divorce proceedings, the VAT on those costs and the court fee charged by the court. In other cases, the costs will be those costs as “assessed by the court” and by that we mean what the court considers to be reasonable having carefully considered the fees claimed by the petitioner’s solicitor.
If a Petitioner has requested that the Court make a costs order, the District Judge will consider this and may make a costs order at the same time as pronouncing the Decree Nisi, the middle stage of the divorce.
A costs order can be made in relation to all of the Petitioner’s costs in respect of the divorce proceedings, or a set figure i.e. a 50% share. The district Judge is almost certain to make a costs order if one has been applied for on a behaviour petition.
If a costs order is made by the District Judge, as set out in the Civil Procedure Rules, this payment is due within 14 days of the date of the costs order.
If the order is not complied with the Petitioner can take steps to enforce payment, the initial application is made to the court for assessment of the costs and the Petitioner can claim the additional costs incurred in taking those steps. This will include the assessment fee and the costs of the assessment hearing. Accordingly, faced with an order for costs it is in the paying parties best interests to try and agree the costs and pay the costs promptly.
If you require any advice or assistance regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced team of family law solicitors.