Cost of divorce reaches £44,000 for UK couples

Article date: 19 August 2014

  • Money matters take 11.5 months to settle following a break-up
  • Total annual cost of divorce in UK adds up to £5.7 billion
  • 57% increase in cost of divorce since last study in 2006

UK couples are spending more than £44,000 on average when they divorce or separate, totalling £5.7 billion per year* across the nation. A new study from life insurer Aviva reveals the hidden cost of divorce as £21,979 per person or £43,958 per couple.

The figures show a 57% increase since Aviva last carried out the survey in 2006 when the cost of divorce was around £28,000. While the data suggests legal fees for divorce have actually fallen over the period - from £1,818 to £1,280 - with many opting for cheaper online services, additional costs such as moving house and child maintenance payments mean the overall price of separation has soared.

As well as considering the core costs associated with a break-up, the study also looked at added extras that many people buy following a split. The research suggests that four out of 10 newly-separated people splash out on items to treat themselves.

For example, the study found one in eight people (13%) took a holiday to celebrate their newly-single status at a typical cost of £1,925, while the same (13%) treated themselves to new technology, shelling out an average of £1,292 on gadgets and gizmos.

Four out of 10 respondents said they were financially worse off following their separation and more than half of couples (53%) took longer than six months to settle financial matters. The typical time to settle was 11.5 months, but one in 10 couples (11%) said the process took more than two years.

With this in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that 36% of people surveyed said they’d prefer to stay single in the future!

The study revealed average expenditure as follows:


Typical cost per person

Proportion who spent on this

Total cost of divorces across UK*

Legal fees



£181.2 million

Annual child maintenance payments



£286.3 million

Buying a new home



£4.1 billion

Setting up new home e.g. furniture, white goods



£530 million

Buying a car / other vehicle



£109.9 million

Redecorating previous shared home



£35.3 million

Annual childcare costs as a result of separation



£89.0 million

Legal fees over child custody arrangements



£34.0 million

Post-separation holiday



£64.4 million

Gadgets / technology e.g. TV / sound system



£43.2 million

Learning a new skill / taking up a hobby



£65.0 million




£46.0 million

Entertainment / gifts for children



£28.7 million

Life coaching / therapy



£28.6 million

New clothes, jewellery, makeover



£30.5 million

Gym / personal trainer / get fit regime



£7.9 million




£5.7 billion

An amicable split keeps costs down…

The financial impact of a separation is also clear from people’s behaviours when a relationship breaks down. Almost a third of couples (29%) said they tried to reach an amicable settlement to save on legal fees, while one in 10 said they effectively separated but continued living together for several months because they couldn’t afford to live apart immediately. A further 6% initially put off getting a divorce because of the costs involved.

Women more likely to make financial adjustments

Women were more likely than men to make lifestyle changes to supplement their income following a separation. One in eight women (13%) said they worked longer hours or took a second job following a break-up, while one in 10 who didn’t work before the split got a job. Women were also more likely to use short-term fixes to make ends meet after a separation: 27% of newly-single women dipped into savings compared to 16% of men, while 23% relied on credit cards, compared to 14% of men.

Louise Colley, protection director for Aviva says: “Two thirds of couples who are married or co-habiting have some shared finances, so these arrangements can take some time to unravel if a relationship unfortunately breaks down. Beginning again following a separation can be a daunting time, not to mention a busy one, but it’s crucial that newly-single people review money matters when their circumstances change.

“For example, if someone becomes the sole income earner for their family unit, it’s important they think about what they might do if they were unable to work, for example through illness or injury. Protection insurance - such as life insurance, critical illness cover or income protection - can provide that all-important peace of mind, so people can start on a firm footing as a new chapter begins.”

Further statistics from the survey showed:

  • Interviewees were typically with their partner for 10 years and eight months before separating, although one in 10 (9%) were together for less than two years.
  • The average age at separation in the study was 38 years and two months.
  • Two thirds (66%) of separating couples had joint finances: four in 10 of these shared all finances, while the remaining six in 10 had some shared and some separate.
  • One in five women took out protection insurance (e.g. life cover) after separating, compared to one in 10 men, but a quarter of respondents said they didn’t have life cover following the split (25%).
  • One in eight separated women (12%) said they have no pension / savings plans as they were relying on their partner to fund their retirement.
  • One in 10 respondents (10%) said they would be significantly worse off in their retirement as a result of their break up.
  • Four out of 10 women (42%) said they were worse off financially as a result of their divorce / separation compared to 33% of men. Four out of 10 men (39%) said they were actually better off, compared to 29% of women.
  • More than a third (36%) of respondents said they would prefer to remain single following their break-up, but 25% would marry (again).

*Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that 118,140 marriages and 794 civil partnerships ended in England and Wales in 2012, while 9,700 marriages and 67 civil partnerships ended in Scotland in 2012/13 according to latest figures for Scottish civil law cases. This equates to 128,701 divorces / dissolutions annually, relating to 257,402 people.

Average cost of divorce is based on total costs according the study, multiplied by the proportion of people who spent on each item, divided by the number of divorces / dissolutions across the UK annually.

** Figures taken from a study of 616 adults aged 18+ who had been married or co-habited with a partner within the last 10 years, carried out by ICM research 9-11 July 2014 across the UK.

- Ends -

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