How to pay legal fees when you separate if you were cohabiting

There isn’t a formal legal process you have to go through when you separate if you’re not married or in a civil partnership. But if you decide to take your partner to court for a share of the home you’ve lived in or because you can’t agree how to divide joint assets or possessions, there will be legal and other fees to pay. If you can’t pay them from your savings or income, you may have to look at other options.

Paying your solicitor’s fees

Before you think about making a claim against your ex-partner, work out how you would pay for any legal advice. If you can’t afford it from your savings or income, you should think carefully about whether court action is the best option. In some cases, the cost of taking action may be even more than any financial benefit to you.

If you don’t have savings or income, there are several ways you can borrow money. But think carefully before you borrow and don’t take out a high-cost loan. This could be hard to repay, especially as many people face extra costs when they first separate.

Find out more in our guide Can you afford to borrow money?

Borrowing from family or friends

You may be able to borrow from family or friends and it may be cheaper and much easier than borrowing from a bank, building society or other loan provider. You should also be sure that you can pay the money back. If you can’t, it could harm the friendship or family relationship.

Read Should you borrow from family or friends?

0% interest credit card

A credit card that charges 0% interest on purchases means you pay no interest on your spending for a limited time – typically three to 12 months.

The longer the 0% interest deal runs for, the longer you have to pay off the money you’ve spent on your card without being charged interest.

You will normally only qualify for these cards if you have a very good credit rating. You should only borrow what you need and you should try to pay off what you’ve borrowed as quickly as you can.

Read Choosing and applying for a credit card.

Personal loan

You may be able to take out a personal loan from a bank, building society or other loan provider. The amount you may be able to borrow and the interest rate will depend on your own circumstances and the lender you apply to.

The interest rate and monthly payments will be fixed and the loan will run for a set term. However, you can normally make extra payments to pay off your loan more quickly without incurring large early repayment charges.

Read more in Personal loans.

Credit Unions

As an alternative to a bank or loan provider, you may be able to borrow from a credit union – a community saving and loans provider owned and run by its members.

The interest they can charge is limited by law, so it will be much cheaper than other short-term loans, such as a doorstep or payday lender.

Read more in Borrowing from a credit union.

Other funding options

Check your home insurance policy, which may include cover for legal expenses.

If you belong to a trade union, it may provide support for legal fees.

If you have children and are going to court over them, you may be able to apply to the court to get your ex-partner to contribute to your fees.

Your next step

How to protect your finances during separation