In this section we explain which court to use, where you can find the forms you will need and information about court fees and court rules (the Family Procedure Rules). We also talk about how much it could cost and how long it will take.
You send your application for a financial order to the divorce centre for the region where you live, the same one that dealt with or is dealing with your divorce or ending your civil partnership. Any documents you have had from the court, for example the acknowledgment of service form or notice of issue of petition, will say ‘the Family Court, sitting at [the location]’.
You can find your regional divorce centre by using the Court and tribunal finder service here Find the right court or tribunal.
You can find the forms you need here Search for court forms and leaflets.
In this guide we try and help you by including links to those forms that are most relevant. Where the form is also available in the Welsh language, we include a second link.
Most court forms seem a bit intimidating when you first look at them. A large part of most form filling involves giving factual information. Read though each form a couple of times to find out what information it asks for. Then get together the information you need before you start filling it in. Once you have done this, the job may turn out to be a bit easier than you first thought. It is unnecessary to use long words and legal language. The best thing is to keep it short and simple. Stick to what is relevant and try not to repeat yourself.
Family court fees
You usually have to pay a family court fee when you start (the court calls this issuing) financial proceedings. For information about family court fees and when and how to pay them see Civil and Family Court Fees or Ffioedd y Llys Sifil a’r Llys Teulu (EX50 - Welsh version).
It costs more to apply for a financial order when you disagree about what you want than applying when you agree.
In some circumstances you may not have to pay a fee at all or only a reduced fee if you have a low income. For example, you will not pay anything if you can prove that you get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Pension Credit guarantee credit, Universal Credit with gross annual earnings of less than £6,000, or income-related Employment and Support Allowance and your savings or other capital don’t exceed certain limits.
You can ask for help paying court fees by completing form EX160. You can find this form here Apply for help with fees and a Welsh/English version here Form EX160 (Welsh/English version).
There are notes to help you complete the form here How to apply for help with fees and a Welsh/English version here How to apply for help with fees (Welsh/English version).
You have to complete a separate application for each court fee you want help paying. This may mean you have to complete this form more than once during your case.
If you do have to pay part of or the whole fee, it is possible your ex may be willing to share the cost with you, especially if you are applying for a consent order.
We have written a guide called Getting help to pay a court fee in a family or civil case that you may find helpful.
Family Procedure Rules
These rules explain what you need to do and when. You may hear lawyers talk about the ‘FPR’. What they are referring to are these rules. An individual rule often comes with one or more additional bits of guidance, called ‘practice directions’. You need to follow the ones that apply to your case. You can find the rules here Family Procedure Rules.
The good news is that only a few rules and practice directions are likely to apply to your case, unless it is very complicated. So it is not like a book - you do not have to start at the beginning and read all the way through to the end. You need to pick out the rules that are relevant to your case. We will try to help you do this by including any key rules in this guide.
How long will it take?
There are usually 3 stages in an application for a financial order: the first appointment, the financial dispute resolution appointment and the final hearing.
It can take over a year if you cannot reach an agreement and your case ends up going all the way to a final hearing. It may take longer if you or your ex is slow to share information about your finances or your situation is complex, perhaps involving things like a family business, complicated pension arrangements or a trust. But if you can reach an agreement, you may not need to go through all 3 stages. We explain each of these stages later in this guide.
How much will it cost?
You should only have to pay your own costs (and not your ex’s as well) unless the court decides you have run your case unreasonably. That might include not doing what the court has ordered, failing to turn up for hearings, misleading the court or your ex or carrying on trying to make unreasonable arguments.
How much it costs you will depend totally on whether you deal with all the paperwork yourself or pay a lawyer to do some or all of it for you.
Lawyers charge for their time. So, usually, every time you write, email or phone, they will charge you for the time they spend reading what you say, thinking about what advice to give you and giving you that advice. The more often you contact them, the more time they spend negotiating on your behalf or representing you at court hearings, the greater the cost – to you.
If you use a lawyer, the key thing is to use their time carefully. So prepare a list of the points you want to make and questions you want to ask before you speak to them. Legal costs can quite easily add up to thousands of pounds. This is one reason why the courts encourages people to mediate and reach an agreement either without going to court at all or if you end up in court, at each hearing you have to attend.
Some lawyers offer packages of legal services for a fixed fee. Sometimes these services include a free first meeting. We suggest you ring round or email several to check what they offer for the price they are quoting. What will they do for you? What do they expect you to do?
You can also pay a lawyer to give you a specific piece of advice or do a specific task. So, for example, you could decide to pay them just to prepare your application. If so, ring round and ask for a quote for doing this job. You might want to pay them to be available on the phone on the date of the first hearing to answer your queries or to represent you at the final hearing. Some firms offer a pay as you option so you don’t get any nasty surprises when it comes to paying your bill.
Another option to help you stay on top of your costs is our Affordable Advice scheme. While reading this guide you will have seen that, at various points, we suggest you get some legal advice if you can possibly afford it. We only do this when we think it will be really useful. We set out clearly what the solicitor can advise you on and how much it will cost you. There are no hidden extras. For more information on this scheme take a look at Expert help from our panel of family law solicitors.
You could also consult a barrister directly without involving anyone else (for example, a solicitor). Not all barristers offer this service though. For more information about finding a barrister to work directly for you look at the Bar Council direct access portal website.
If you have a solicitor, they must provide the court with an estimate of costs at every hearing. This way you can see what is coming out of your shared pot of money and assets before it is divided between you.
This estimate of costs must be provided on Form H. You can find this form here Form H and a Welsh/ English version here Amcangyfrif o gostau (rhwymedi ariannol) (Form H - Welsh/English version). If you don’t have a solicitor, you may have to complete Form H yourself. Check with court staff at the court dealing with your case.
Get some legal advice
If you can afford it, it will be very helpful to get some legal advice on the practicalities of how long it will all take and how much it will all cost.