How to get help with legal fees – our top tips to pay your legal fees if you don’t have the income or assets to cover your lawyer’s costs 

Accessing funds for legal fees may be difficult if assets are tied up, or income streams are for whatever reason inaccessible. This can lead to people going it alone and losing out on much needed expert advice; a decision that can have long lasting and serious implications. In this article we explain the various funding options that may be available to you. 

6 Ways you can get help with legal fees in the UK

Here are our top 6 ways you can seek advice and help with legal fees within the UK.

1. Ask the other party to voluntary make payment

Usually, the most straightforward and risk-free option is to ask the other party to make a voluntary payment towards your legal costs. If, however they refuse, do not have the means to pay or are only prepared to make a payment up to a certain amount you will need to consider the alternative options below.

2. Help from family and friends 

Your friends or family may be willing to help you with your legal fees either by way of a gift or by way of a loan. Their help may be more appealing than taking out a commercial loan, however, before any money is advanced you will need to understand the terms on which they are prepared to advance funds, as well as understand the potential impact their help may have on your case. It is therefore essential you take early legal advice. 

In divorce and dissolution proceedings the court will distinguish between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ loans. A hard loan is akin to a loan from a commercial lender; it has to be repaid and if not, the borrower can expect legal action to be taken to recover the funds. A court is likely to conclude there is a soft loan where the obligation is to a friend or family member with whom the debtor remains on good terms and who is unlikely to want the debtor to suffer hardship. If you borrow from friends and family there is a risk that the loan will be regarded as a soft loan and either not taken into account when deciding how the assets should be divided, or if it is taken into account, it may not be given priority and the court could take a view that it will be repaid if and when your resources permit.

3. Personal loans, credit cards and re-mortgaging property 

There is nothing to stop you taking out a personal loan, using a credit card or looking at re-mortgaging a property to cover your legal costs. You should take legal and financial advice to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the various options.

You should try and keep expenditure on legal costs separate from other expenditure, so that you can easily identify what has been spent on your legal costs and if necessary, provide evidence of the expenditure to the other party or the court.

4. Litigation loans

You may be eligible to apply for a loan from a specialist legal fees loan provider. Security for these loans is usually given over your capital assets and becomes repayable at the end of your proceedings. If you would like to consider this option, we can provide you with details of loan providers.

5. Legal services order – available in divorce, dissolution, and judicial separation proceedings

The court can make an order requiring one party to the marriage/civil partnership to pay to the other an amount for the purposes of enabling the applicant to obtain legal services for the purpose of the proceedings. It is possible for a legal services order to be made to fund any form of dispute resolution, including mediation and arbitration. 

To make an application you will need to show that:

  • You are not reasonably able to secure appropriate legal services for the proceedings without such an order;
  • You are not reasonably able to secure a loan or charge over your assets. Usually, this would require you to produce two negative letters from potential lenders; and
  • The other party has the ability to pay.
  • Interim Legal Funding Order – financial provision for a child or following an overseas divorce 

If you have made an application for financial provision for a child or an application for financial relief following an overseas divorce, you may be able to apply for an interim order for the other party to pay towards your legal costs. The criteria to obtain an order is broadly similar to the criteria for a legal services order.

6. Legal aid

Legal aid can help meet the costs of legal advice, family mediation and representation in a court or tribunal. You will need to show that your case is eligible for legal aid, the problem is serious, and you cannot afford to pay for legal costs. In family cases legal aid is usually only available if you or your family are at risk of abuse or serious harm, for example domestic violence or forced marriage or you are making legal arguments or bringing a case under the Human Rights Act. 

You can check if you are eligible for legal aid on the government website at

Watson Morris – Family Lawyers

At Watson Morris We understand that having to fund legal fees can be a worry and add to the pressure at an already stressful time. We hope you have found our tips useful and better understand how you can get help with legal fees.

If you require help, support or advice on any element of family law then contact us today.

Written by Caroline Watson

September 27, 2022

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