How Much Does it Cost to get Divorced?
One of the main questions a family lawyer hears is, "how much will it cost me to get divorced?" Unfortunately, like so many things about family law, the answer is: it depends.
There are several different avenues that separating and divorcing couples can take to resolve their divorce, division of property, parenting or support issues. The first one that comes to most people's minds is going to Court, otherwise referred to as litigation. However, it is not the most effective choice in most cases.
The overloaded legal system increases legal fees.
Unfortunately, our justice system is overloaded, and there are long delays in getting matters properly heard. This drags resolution out for months or even years, increasing legal fees. While the Courts are relatively cheap in their fees to file applications, the cost of legal representation can be restrictive.
Legal fees for a family law matter going trial with lawyers could cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000.
Remember that every situation is different and may not reach that level for everyone, or it could be even more for others. It all depends on the parties and the issues.
Collaborative Law Option
Another option would be to use collaborative counsel. Collaborative Law is a dispute resolution process facilitated by trained lawyers who assist in resolving conflict using cooperative strategies. Both parties retain lawyers and enter into agreements with those lawyers that neither party will seek Court intervention. Then using a series of group meetings, the collaborative professionals assist the parties in seeking a resolution. There are a lot of benefits to Collaborative Law. However, impasses can occur, and at that point, the parties are required to find new lawyers and must start all over again.
Further, given the requirements of ongoing group meetings, the cost can climb. In some cases, the costs can be limited; the parties easily exchange financial disclosure and reach a settlement relatively early with the assistance of their collaborative counsel.
Legal fees for a family law matter going through the Collaborative Law process could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000.
However, if it takes longer to reach that resolution, costs could climb even to the point of regular litigation. Then if the Collaborative process breaks down, the parties must start all over with new counsel and go through the Court system. This outcome is an incentive for the parties to come to an agreement amongst themselves.
Mediation as an Option
Another dispute resolution process that is most often recommended among family lawyers is mediation. In mediation, separating couples hire an independent third party to help resolve their disputes. The cost of the mediator is shared between the parties, thereby reducing fees all around. For example, quality lawyers provide mediation services in the range of $300 per hour and up. At Crossroads Law, the mediator's rate ranges between $300 and $500 per hour. That's $150 to $250 per party, per hour.
The length of the mediation would depend on the parties and their issues, but generally, mediation is faster than other dispute resolution options, particularly if a quality mediator is chosen.
Legal fees for a family law matter going through the Mediation process could cost anywhere from $2,400 to $5,000.
A one-day, 8-hour mediation would cost approximately $2,400 plus GST and disbursements, split between the parties. Compared to each party retaining their own lawyer, costs could range from $200 to $800 per hour per party.
Separating couples could even retain their own family lawyer to attend mediation with them. And while that is an additional cost on top of sharing the cost of a mediator, this is generally the most efficient way to resolve a conflict.
This upfront cost could save thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in fees by avoiding litigation and going to family Court. Having independent counsel at mediation would allow the parties to get on the spot legal advice and assist in a quick resolution while everyone is sitting at the same table.
Choosing the right process for your family will allow you to save money and develop a plan that fits you. Generally, the more amicable the parties are, the 'cheaper' the process will be. In that sense, mediation is generally the best choice.