Most people who contemplate separation or divorce in Simcoe County, York Region and the GTA are concerned about the cost of the process. We are deeply concerned about this as well. The reality is that legal fees are unplanned costs that come during a difficult time in your life. The choices you make now will have a huge impact on your life going forward, so do not be “penny wise, dollar foolish”. What I mean is that investing in legal assistance is an investment in your future. Find a way to afford legal help. We offer many choices of services, so that you can get the help you need and can afford.
Our reputation is built on helping people minimize their legal costs, while resolving issues in a timely, efficient manner. We use technology and streamlined systems to achieve your goals cost-effectively. Shop around and you will find that we are on the leading edge when it comes to leveraging technology and streamlined systems effectively. Although each case is different, the choices you make can have a significant effect on the cost of your separation or divorce.
Your first step is to book a consultation with one our lawyers. Just call our Intake Team and they will have a conversation with you to learn about your circumstances. Their role is to match you with the right lawyer for your particular case. The cost of a consultation with the lawyer is $295.00 including HST. You will have one hour with your lawyer. We do consultations remotely due to Covid. Our preference is to use the video conferencing system called Zoom but some are done on the phone.
Some lawyers offer “free consultations”, but you get what you pay for. Our consultations are not a “sales job”. We listen carefully to your story, answer questions, offer advice and suggest a roadmap to resolution going forward. You will feel relieved after your consultation because so much of the uncertainty will be resolved. There is no obligation to retain your lawyer after the consultation but usually clients do enter into an agreement for further services. The choice is yours. We certainly will not push you into retaining us. We just want to help when you are ready.
Typical Fees for Separation Agreements
When it is time to move on from a marriage and make a new start, a Separation Agreement should be obtained. The Separation Agreement is a legally binding contract settling all issues including those related to the children, support, and property.
If you have children, you must prove to the judge that you have resolved child support issues by agreement or order before a divorce will be granted. For this reason, it is desirable to have a Separation Agreement in place.
You can reach the terms to be included in a Separation Agreement through your own negotiations, through mediation or through the Collaborative Process. Often court cases are also resolved using a Separation Agreement.
If you cannot reach an agreement, you may have to go to court to get an order from a judge. We try to avoid court when possible because it is more expensive. If our client’s rights are not being respected or the other person is just completely unreasonable, court may be the only option.
Here are the typical costs associated with each of these choices.
- Simple uncontested separation agreements where you reach an agreement on your own or with the help of a mediator are the least expensive. They typically range in cost from $3,000 to $7,000.
- If you cannot reach an agreement on your own, the Collaborative Process is usually the most cost-effective option. Most collaborative cases range from $4,000 to $20,000 depending on the number of meetings needed to reach an agreement.
- Most court cases range from $15,000 to $50,000, but the amount may be much higher as the costs are more difficult to control. For example, if we go to trial, the cost can be very high.
Attaining your divorce is the last step in the process. The cost of an uncontested divorce is a fixed fee of $2,500. This cost includes your filing fees at court (about $650), our staff and lawyer time and HST. It is a small fee to pay to attain closure. Divorces can take about 4 to 8 months to obtain and the length of time can vary between courts.
Retainers are deposits toward future legal fees. You give us a deposit of money which we put into our trust account. When we do work on your case, we render a bill and pay ourselves from the trust account. You are then required to top up the retainer so that we always have money in trust for your case.
Standard retainer amounts to be provided and maintained are:
- Co-habitation/Marriage contract - $2,000
- Collaborative cases - $3,000
- Separation Agreements - $3,000
- Court Proceedings - $7,000
- Urgent motions at court - $10,000
You will receive a monthly invoice from us, so you are always aware of the services received and your costs to that point. In some cases, if your fees are accumulating quickly, we will send you invoices twice in a month. We do not want you to have any surprises about legal fees, so we do our best to keep you informed every step of the way.
Flat Fees/Fixed Fees and Hourly Fees
In some cases, we offer our clients a flat fee or a fixed fee. That means that we will tell you how much your legal fees will be and what services you will receive for such services. We do not bill you on an hourly basis. The fee is fixed from the start. Often clients like flat fees because it gives you an ability to budget for your costs. You know the costs in advance. We take the risk when setting the flat fee.
Normally, law firms bill on an hourly basis. That means that we bill you in increments of 6 minutes based on the hourly rate for each person for all work conducted on your case.
The difference between flat fees and hourly fees is who is taking the risk. If we are offering a flat fee, we are taking the risk that your case will not get too complicated and require a lot of time. If we are charging on an hourly basis, you are taking the risk. If your case becomes complicated, the fees will increase based on the amount of time we commit to it.
The hourly rates are set based on the experience of the lawyer. They range from $335 per hour to $595 per hour plus HST. We charge for our law clerks that work on your case at the rate of $195 per hour plus HST. The hourly rates are changed annually.
Do It Yourself
Some clients do not want to fully retain us to help them throughout their separation or divorce, but they need a helping hand. We offer coaching or document preparation for those who want to do most of the work on their own. You can discuss this option with your lawyer during a consultation. Of course, it is better to retain our law firm to help you with all aspects of your case, but if you cannot afford to do so, then hire us for coaching or documentation preparation. It is better to get some help than no help at all. If your case becomes too complicated, you can always retain us to fully represent you at any time. We will provide you with the level of services you need and can afford.
Wills and Powers of Attorney
If at the time of your death you are married (which can include separated but not yet divorced), and die without a Will, your surviving spouse is entitled to receive a “preferential share” of your Estate. The preferential share has recently increased to be $350,000 in Ontario for deaths on or after March 1, 2021. In particular:
- If you had no children together, then upon your death your spouse simply gets the preferential share “off the top” of your Estate.
- If you and your spouse had one child together, then your spouse gets the preferential share plus one-half of the balance of your Estate.
- If you had more than one child, it is the preferential share plus one-third of the balance
You should have a Will in place for many reasons. For example, if you are getting re-married (that may sound crazy to some of you) then you need to do a new Will because your new marriage will automatically revoke your existing Will.
Our fee for a single Will with powers of attorney is $1000 including HST. If you and your new partner are doing Wills and powers of attorney, we charge $1,500 including HST.
To learn about your options, rights and obligations, your first step is to schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers. Do not be shy during this meeting. We are happy to answer any questions you have, including questions about fees. Be prepared for your meeting. Read some of the many articles on this website so you are familiar with how family law works and bring with you a list of questions. We want to help relieve you of some of the uncertainty and give you a clear direction forward. The more prepared you are for your consultation, the better value to you.