One of the most common factors couples assess when considering a divorce is the cost. Going to court and getting a divorce can be expensive. This does not stop parties from proceeding, but it is something that weighs into the decision. However, parties should be aware that the costs for getting a divorce can range in price, as there are several options for obtaining a divorce.
The answer to this question really depends on the lawyer, as hourly rates will vary from lawyer to lawyer. A lawyer with more experience will generally be more expensive than a lawyer recently called to the bar and has less experience. Costs can vary anywhere from, generally, $250 an hour for a new lawyer to upwards of $700 for a more senior and experienced lawyer. The average price of a divorce lawyer, however, will typically depend on the lawyer’s experience and seniority.
There are several options parties can take when obtaining a divorce which will impact the costs.
An uncontested divorce is essentially an application to the court for a divorce which includes an outline of the parties’ agreement in regards to any and all related issues. This can include arrangements for custody, access, support and division of property. Parties do not need to attend court for an uncontested divorce. This helps to keep costs low.
However, there are fees associated with an uncontested divorce. In Ontario, it costs $632 to obtain a divorce. The first payment of $212 is due when the application for divorce is filed which includes court fees of $202 and $10 that is collected for the federal Department of Justice. Additional court fees of $420 are paid before the divorce is reviewed by the court.
While this is the cheaper option for obtaining a divorce, it is important to remember that these costs are in addition to any legal fees associated with the matter.
A contested divorce is where the parties do not agree on the issues or on the divorce itself. Parties will typically hire a lawyer, if they haven’t already, to assist in the contested issues. Retaining a lawyer will cause the cost of the divorce to increase, and the longer the matter goes on, the more expensive the divorce becomes. This is especially so in complex and contentious matters.
Similar to an Uncontested Divorce, a Joint Divorce Application will also help to keep the costs low. A joint application for divorce is a request that is made by both spouses for a divorce order, with or without other terms (for example agreed-upon child support payments). With a joint application, both spouses must complete the documents that are necessary in order to obtain the divorce. The fees of a Joint Divorce Application are the same as those under an Uncontested Divorce.
Legal Aid provides low-income individuals with a certificate to assist with their family law matters. However, these certificates do not pay for a divorce except in rare situations. For example, where there are also immigration issues or where a divorce is needed to deal with financial difficulties, like qualifying for a pension.
Individuals can also try contacting the Family Law Information Centre, located at the court, to inquire if they qualify for assistance from an advice lawyer (a legal aid lawyer). If you qualify, the advice lawyer can give you up to 20 minutes of free general advice. The advice lawyer may also be able to give you a referral to a family law service centre. If you do not qualify, you are still able to speak with duty counsel at the court, where you will be given general information about your issues.
Nussbaum Law is a Toronto based law firm that exclusively practices family and divorce law.