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Cost of divorce up 17% in three years amid soaring legal fees and housing costs

Separating couples now typically spend £14,561 on lawyers and lifestyle costs, plus an additional £35,000 to rent or £144,600 to buy new property

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 11 January 2018 01:38 GMT
Report by Aviva reveals soaring legal fees and the cost of redecorating homes, as well as moving house, are central to this rise in costs
Report by Aviva reveals soaring legal fees and the cost of redecorating homes, as well as moving house, are central to this rise in costs (Getty/iStock)

The cost of divorce has soared by 17 per cent in three years, with divorcing and separating couples now typically spending £14,561 on legal and lifestyle costs, a new report reveals.

On top of this, couples who move house as a result of the separation spend tens of thousands of pounds on moving house. Those who rent – which applies to more than half of divorcees – spend around £35,000, while those who go onto buy a new property (16 per cent) spend £144,600 on average.

The report by Aviva reveals soaring legal fees and the cost of redecorating homes, as well as moving house, are central to this rise.

Legal fees have more than doubled since 2014, up by 109 per cent from £1,280 to £2,679, with any additional costs in child custody battles having also increased by 62 per cent, from £3,500 to £5,671.

The cost of redecorating a previously shared home has also risen by around 73 per cent, the findings show.

Due to these soaring costs, for a significant proportion of separated couples – 16 per cent – affordability remains such a concern that they remain living together in the same house because they can’t afford to move.

This is especially prevalent among former couples in London, where two fifths (39 per cent) of divorcees carried on this arrangement for longer than three months due to high housing costs.

Meanwhile, nearly one in three (31 per cent) of those who have split say they have dipped into their savings for financial support, while over a quarter (26 per cent) admit using credit cards for this reason. Close to a quarter (23 per cent) have also borrowed from friends and family to tide them over.

Aviva’s findings indicate the majority (68 per cent) of couples who divorce or separate have financial issues to resolve, with the process taking on average 14 and a half months – three months longer than in 2014.

With over a third (34 per cent) stating they found the process worse than expected, the report urges couples to ensure they have an equal understanding of household finances to prevent long-term financial plans from going off-course in the event of a relationship breakdown.

The report comes as new data revealed the number of divorces in England and Wales increased by 6 per cent between 2015 and 2016 to 106,959 – in what marked the first rise since 2009.

In light of the findings, Paul Brencher, Aviva’s health and protection director, said: “The breakdown of a marriage or long-term relationship is likely to be one of the most emotionally demanding life events for people who experience it.

“Without taking away from the primary emotional strain, there are other significant costs which have the potential to cause further disruption to family units. Aside from the costs of a new home, separating couples across the UK spend £1.7bn getting back on their feet after the breakdown of a relationship on costs including legal fees, buying a car or paying for a newfound need for childcare.

“As a consequence, it is little surprise that they are drawn towards their savings for support or borrowing from friends and family. Many additionally find themselves priced out of the property market.

“While it may seem completely unnecessary to plan for such an unfortunate life event, it is important that both partners in a relationship take an active interest in their financial affairs, even if one tends to take the lead.

“Ensuring a better mutual understanding of household finances can make navigating the process more manageable if the relationship takes an unforeseen turn, while preventing long-term financial planning from going off course.”

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