The high price of marriage is exceeded only by divorce in Ontario. A 2019 Canadian Lawyer survey of legal fees in Ontario revealed going to court costs over 10 times more than talking it over and settling on your own.
Average Divorce Costs in Ontario
You know your legal fees are soaring out of control when you get hit with a $53,000 bill for a five-day contested divorce. That often doesn’t include all the extra little fees, like photocopies, postage and paying expert witnesses.
Ontario Family Law Firms Less Expensive
That was the high end of what family lawyers working at large law firms with offices across Canada charged their clients in 2019. The news was better for Ontario family lawyers, who billed an average of $23,000 to $32,000. When you think of it, that’s almost a full year’s wages. After taxes and living expenses, can you put your hands on that kind of money without robbing your RRSPS, if you have any?
Keeping it Real Financially
While the desire to be heard and your determination that you’re not at fault can propel you into an Ontario family court, you may want to take your time before launching a legal action. The more assets you have, the less likely you will get off cheaply. Homes, cottages, jewelry, pension plans, joint bank accounts, stocks and bonds and your small business are all at stake. The quality of your financial, and personal life, is about to change.
Why Having More Costs More
Getting to the core of what you own and where it is located, let alone how much you owe an ex-spouse, can take substantial lawyer resources. Your lawyer will have to network with other professionals like your accountant or financial advisor to come up with a summary of the value and nature of your assets. The more complex your financial affairs, the longer they will take to tally up. You may have to divide bank accounts and unwind business partnerships to divide your property and assets. Ontario lawyers can charge over $200 an hour. The clock is ticking.
The Contested Divorce, A Trial From Start to Finish
When you contest a divorce, you agree to disagree. Child access visitation rights, child custody, property division and who did what when can all be up in the air. Trying to be your own lawyer is a scary thought at the best of times. A divorce is no time to go it alone if you can at all avoid it. The rules of court are complicated and missing even one deadline can set you back. Then there’s the stress of going to trial. How will that affect you or your family?
What Are Fees and Disbursements?
Hiring a licensed lawyer comes with a long list of fees. Hourly fees for an experienced family lawyer are just the start (a child custody and support agreement on top of that can average $2,500 to $3,000). On top of that, you are usually on the hook for fees to set up your file, make photocopies of legal documents and evidence you provide, pay court filing fees, prepare affidavits and distribute court documents to your ex-spouse. Even the most basic court filing can cost upwards of $500. Are you sure you can afford all that?
Complain If the Bill is Too High
You finally settled, but your bill is way higher than you thought it would be. Complain to the law firm. Lawyers must provide you with a full accounting of how they arrived at your fees and disbursements and it must make sense. Your fees are based on your lawyer’s time, skill, importance of the matter to you, its legal complexity, amount of assets you have, the results you want and, hopefully, your ability to pay.
A ‘Court’ of Appeal for Lawyer’s Fees
If you still don’t get any satisfaction, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has a process to review lawyers’ bills. Speak up quickly though. You only have a month to file a complaint with the Assessment Office or you will have to get permission from a court judge.
Settle for Uncontested Divorce to Save Legal Costs
Now that you’ve weighed all the costs, are you still sure you want to go to trial? An uncontested divorce is easier on the wallet. If saving money is a worry, opt for an informal separation agreement for now. That gives you time to decide who will move out of the house and where the kids will live. Child custody and visitation rights can also be negotiated on your own, with the help of a mediator or using an Axess Law family lawyer. Be aware that uncontested divorce is probably not the best option for you if your spouse is abusive, has alcohol or drug issues or may use the kids to argue their case.
Coming to Financial Terms with Divorce
Coming to terms with the changes in your life without going to court can take some of the anger and fear out of what will be a major lifestyle adjustment.
Affordable Ontario Virtual Lawyers for Day or Evening Appointments
Axess Law’s Ontario family lawyers are affordable and professional. We video conference with you 7 days a week, day or evening, anywhere in Ontario. Make an appointment by dialing toll-free to 877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto at 647-479-0118 or use our online booking form. In person appointments with licensed lawyers are available at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices.
Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s family law services.