What to do If Your Ex Claims Divorce Costs from You

30 December 2019

By Divorce Case Manager, Harry Low

In some divorce cases, one spouse can ask the other to cover the costs of the divorce. In this article, we explain when this might apply and what to do if your spouse makes a Costs Order against you for some or all of the divorce fees.

Divorce Costs Explained

When applying for divorce or a civil partnership, a Court fee will need to paid, regardless of whether you're submitting your divorce paperwork yourself or instructing a Divorce Solicitor to help you. If a Solicitor is being instructed, they will charge a fee for their services that will need to be paid in addition to the Court fee.

Usually the person who applies for the divorce (by submitting the Divorce Petition) will be liable for paying the Court fee. However, in some circumstances they may be able to ask the Court to award a Costs Order, meaning you are ordered by the Court to reimburse all or part of their legal fees.

What to do If Your Spouse Has Applied for a Costs Order

Firstly, you need to decide whether you agree to contribute towards your spouse's legal costs. You are likely to have costs of your own, particularly if you have also chosen to seek the advice of a Divorce Solicitor, so money might be tight.

You will also need to consider why your spouse could be looking to claim costs against you. For example, they may have a lower income if you were the main breadwinner for the family. It's also important to consider future costs. If you choose to defend a claim for costs, it is likely to be addressed at a court hearing, which will incur additional costs. If you are in this situation, we would always recommend seeking independent advice from a Divorce Solicitor.

Once you have decided whether or not you are going to defend the claim, you will need to inform the Court of your decision on the Acknowledgment of Service. Once the Court has received this document, your response will be formally recorded.

If you have agreed, it's likely that a Costs Order will be made at the Decree Nisi stage of the divorce process. If you have chosen to defend the claim for costs, a hearing will likely be scheduled.

I Have Defended the Claim for Costs and Hearing has Been Scheduled

If you have informed the Court that you intend on defending the Costs Order, you will also be required to put forward a statement on your reasons for this. Ensure this statement is lodged with the Court ahead of the Decree Nisi being pronounced.

At the hearing, the judge will consider:

  • the conduct of both you and your spouse during the proceedings
  • the cause of the breakdown of the marriage
  • whether the costs being claimed by your spouse are reasonable
  • whether the Family Law Protocol has been followed

The judge will then make a final decision on whether to issue the Costs Order. You should discuss your circumstances with your Solicitor before submitting your defence, as you could be ordered to pay further costs as a result of the hearing.

What to do if a Costs Order Has Been Made

If a Costs Order has been made by the Court, your spouse should confirm what their costs are and how you should make the payment to them. If your spouse presents you with unrealistic or unnecessarily inflated costs, you can ask the Court to decide exactly how much should be paid.

What happens if you and your spouse have agreed that you will pay costs, and you've sent your spouse the money in advance, but there is still a claim for costs on the Divorce Petition?

In this situation, you will firstly want to confirm with your spouse whether the claim for costs has already been satisfied. Any payments made your spouse should be recorded to ensure there is no discrepancy in the future. If your spouse seeks further costs, in addition to those agreed, you should contact a Divorce Solicitor for specialist advice.

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