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What happens if I can’t afford divorce legal fees?

  • Sharon McDougall -
  • 18th December 2021 -
  • 2 minutes to read

What financial support is available to pay for my divorce?

*Please note we can't assist with marriage counselling or legal advice relating to divorce. We can help if you are based in Scotland and struggling with personal debts due to divorce or financial recklessness from your partner.

The emotional strain of divorce can be overwhelming, and further exacerbated by uncertainty over money. Divorce is typically an expensive process, so what happens if you can’t afford to pay your divorce legal fees?

Legal Aid in Scotland

Although Legal Aid has been largely phased out in England, except for such cases as domestic violence, it’s still available for people living in Scotland. Assessment for Legal Aid is based on your income, levels of savings/investments, and the value of your assets apart from your home.

Legal Aid is essentially a loan, however, and if you receive a settlement in your divorce case the Legal Aid Board will aim to recover some or all of the Legal Aid payment. You’ll qualify automatically for Legal Aid in Scotland if you receive any of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income based Employment and Support Allowance (not contribution-based)
  • Income based Jobseekers Allowance (not contribution-based)

You can check whether or not you qualify automatically on the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) website.

Litigation loans

Borrowing money to pay for a divorce isn’t the best option, but if you’re likely to receive a significant financial settlement or high value assets from the divorce, specialist lenders may be willing to sanction a loan to pay for your legal fees.

This would typically be secured against an asset, possibly your home, so the lender reduces their risk. Further considerations when taking out a litigation loan include the interest rate, whether this is applied for the entire loan or only on the amounts drawn down, and the level of administration charges.

Award of expenses

In some divorce cases one party is made liable for the other person’s divorce fees. Clearly, divorce is a complicated situation and every case is different, but your partner could potentially be made liable to pay some or all of your divorce legal fees.

Free consultation with a professional

Some solicitors offer free initial consultations during which time you can find out more about the potential costs of your divorce case, and the payment options that might be available to you.

It’s important to seek advice from a range of professionals prior to making any decisions, however, and licensed insolvency practitioners can provide vital information on money and debt before and after your divorce.

They’ll explain the implications of taking out a loan or using a credit card to pay your legal fees, and the different debt solutions that could help if necessary. These include the Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS), for example, which is backed by the Scottish government.

A Scottish Trust Deed is another debt remedy that helps you escape debt over a period of time. You repay your unsecured debts within a formal agreement, and debts remaining at the end of the term are written off.

Our partner-led team at Scotland Debt Solutions are debt specialists, and can offer you a same-day meeting free-of-charge at one of our offices around Scotland. We’ll explain the options that might be available to you, and offer reliable guidance and support.

Sharon McDougall
Sharon McDougall
Manager
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