Divorce Costs as a Litigant in Person
Have you been sent a Divorce Petition which claims that you pay the Divorce Costs and are uncertain what to do?
1. The first consideration is who has signed the Divorce Petition is it your spouse or their Solicitor?
If it is your spouse, then they are acting as a Litigant in Person and the amount they can claim in Costs against you is limited. The law here is a little more complex, but to put simply in a Divorce case the maximum hourly rate is £18 an hour if they elect for the hourly rate, although if they can prove actual financial loss, ( eg. they have done the work preparing the divorce documents when they would have worked for example as an Architect earning £50 pounds an hour they could claim that rate. I am not aware of anyone who has successfully proved #financial loss in a Divorce case where acting as Litigant in Person) so I would suggest considering the £18 pounds an hour rate to give you an idea. Very loosely, without considering any time expended on research and using the previous legal aid time frame of 3 hours work for a straightforward Divorce would give you a figure of £54 pounds, plus any court fees paid.
2. The second consideration is, would your spouse have qualified for fee exemption or remission? If so, there may not be any Court Fees so your spouse could not claim these against you. That gives you an idea of the amount that could be claimed against you.
3. The third consideration is whether you do object to paying the Divorce Costs? If so, and you are representing yourself in the Divorce, you will need to complete the Acknowledgement of Service Form. In the section that asks you about costs, you will need to say that you object to paying the costs. It is helpful to put a reason here. The Judge when he considers whether to grant the Decree Nisi of Divorce will either not make an Order for Costs based upon your objection or will list a hearing for you both to attend to argue whether there should be a costs order made. Even if the Judge makes a costs order, the other party would then need to make an application to enforce the costs order against you using enforcement proceedings.
Alternative ways of dealing with the Divorce Cost Claim include dealing with them as part of the financial settlement. If there are financial matters to be agreed between, as part of the settlement there could be an agreement for the costs order not be enforced. The simplest way if you are on amicable or civil terms with your spouse, would be to speak to them and come to an agreement, for example, to share any court fees payable and if none, that your spouse does not proceed with the claim for costs.
Your spouse can amend the petition when applying for the Decree Nisi to delete the claim for costs or amend to say that the only costs are the court fees which are to be shared equally between you. Just make sure that your conversation is "Without Prejudice" as they can proceed with the divorce proving you have been served with the Petition without you returning the Acknowledgement of Sevice Form. I have had clients who are really certain that their spouse will not claim costs and just allowed the Petition to proceed, even if it means a costs order. As with everything in Family Law, it depends upon the personal circumstances of your case and the relationship between yourself and spouse.
I will have a look at the situation where a Solicitor has signed th Divorce Petiton in a separate post.