COST OF DIVORCE
The cost of divorce in Scotland can vary enormously depending on your
particular set of circumstances, your attitude and the attitude of your
The cheapest divorces
The cheapest divorces are generally those where there are either limited assets or no assets and no children and where through nobody’s fault the marriage just hasn’t worked out and both of you are content to walk away with what you have in your own name. If there is really nothing to sort out between you then divorce could cost as little as a few hundred pounds.
The most expensive divorces are generally those where there is a bit of money and assets have become entangled along the way. One spouse might have access to much of the asset base and the other may not have much of an idea as to the value of the assets accumulated. The spouse with the money may be reluctant to divulge what they have. In those circumstances, the spouse with no money may have no option but to raise a court action so that their spouse is compelled by the court to disclose what they own. If there are significant assets, these cases tend to be raised in the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest national court. Advocates ( barristers) are instructed and they also charge a fee.
Other examples of cases that might be raised in the Court of Session are those with an international element of those where a novel point of law is being argued.
The cost of these cases can be significant. I have had cases that have cost clients upwards of £250,000. A cost benefit analysis has to be carried out before we embark on this kind of divorce action. For example, in one case, an offer was made by a husband of £2 million. He hadn’t disclosed his asset position at all. My advice to the wife was essentially that I couldn’t advise her. I had no idea if this offer was good or bad as I had no idea as to the extent of the asset base. The wife decided to proceed.
In the end she received an award of £ 6 million from the court. She spent about £300,000 along the way but in the end was a lot better off than she would have been without the court case. In that type of scenario, spending a bit of money is generally worthwhile in order to secure a greater financial reward although the process may take an emotional toll and you have to factor that in.
Pointless, wasteful divorces
Where it really gets out of hand is where there isn’t that much money and both spouses need to preserve as much wealth as they can so that they can each afford to live independently from each other . Despite this, one or sometimes both of them are so caught up in fighting with one another they lose sight of the end goal. I have had clients openly admit that they would rather end up with nothing rather than see their spouse with something. Frequently, by the time they are finished fighting there isn’t much money left. When I set up my own firm, I made a pledge to myself that I wouldn’t take this type of client on. I don’t want to play any part in this type of mindless destruction.
The best kind of divorce
Thankfully, most of us are not in the market for a pointless, destructive fight and most of us don’t have complicated finances. In the main, most couples have a house, a mortgage, some pension provision, some savings, maybe some other debt and maybe some other assets such as a business. Most couples want the process to be as painless as possible and most recognise that they should be able to get along post divorce especially if they have children. One spouse may blame the other for the divorce and one may be very hurt, say if there has been an affair however most people can put their own issues to one side in the interests of getting matters resolved.
Most couples, will need a bit of help along the way. A lawyer, or lawyer mediator is able to help you identify which assets are matrimonial and which are not.
They will also help you to value the assets that are matrimonial correctly. There are then various legal arguments that can be advanced in favour of one or other of the spouses.
The key to keeping costs down is to have a good attitude and an open mind. You have to accept that you are not going to get everything you want and you will need to make concessions along the way. Try not to just focus on money. Rather think about what you really need rather than what you think you should be entitled to. A good settlement isn’t just about the money. It is about you being happy at the end of the process or at least being reasonably content.
If you have somewhere adequate to live, enough money to have a reasonable life, some retirement provision and happy kids is that not enough?
If you are a busy professional who has a wife who lets you see he kids whenever you want and allows you to change plans at the last minute if you have a work crisis is that not worth you giving her an “extra”£20,000 so she can afford a decent house?
I believe that the best investment you can both make in your futures is to embrace a process that ensures you can communicate effectively with one another. That means sitting in the same room as your spouse with your professional advisers. Both Collaborative Practice and Mediation lend themselves to this. What you are aiming for is to resolve all your issues before you get to court. You do that by face to face discussions facilitated by professionals and entering into a separation agreement first.
Unlike England; the court doesn’t have to approve your settlement. You are free to be creative as you want. I always tell my clients that the law is the default position if you can’t agree. What I encourage you to do is find a bespoke settlement that suits your family.
The cost of this type of divorce can also vary depending on your asset base, the issues you have to resolve and the number of meetings you need. What I can say is that it won’t cost anything like litigation and the difference is that this is money well spent on securing a happy future for your family.