How Much Does a Divorce Cost?
How much does it cost to get divorced? This is a question we get asked a lot. The answer depends on how you want to get divorced. We will explore a few different options for how to get a divorce and the fees you might pay. Please review our price list for family law services here (Edmonton) and here (Calgary).
Access To Justice Podcast Episode 2
Kahane Law Office’s Evan Clarke discussed this very issue in Episode 2 of his podcast, Access to Justice. Watch it here:
What Are The Issues?
The complexity of your relationship breakdown is one factor that can influence the amount of legal fees you will have to pay. The following are the main categories of issues that you might have to deal with as part of your divorce.
Children: Decision-Making, Parenting Time, Child Support
Where there are children, you will have to decide who has the decision-making authority (often this is shared for the “big” decisions). You will also have to decide who the child lives with, whether that is primarily with one person, or shared between both parents.
Child support is the right of the child. The Federal Child Support Guidelines often help determine who pays child support and how much that person pays. However, there are some circumstances where it is appropriate to “depart” from the Federal Child Support Guidelines.
These are the issues that you must resolve where there are children of the relationship.
Spousal Or Partner Support
Spousal support or partner support may also be an issue that you must resolve. This issue is often quite contentious, and is generally complex. The longer the relationship, the more likely it is that this will be an issue.
If there is any property and/or debts of the relationship, it is best to deal with dividing them as you deal with the rest of the issues. Obviously, the more complex your property situation, the more challenging it can be to come to an agreement.
If none of the issues mentioned above apply to your situation, or where you have agreed on all of them, the simplest and most affordable option is to get an “uncontested” divorce. This is when one person files for divorce and the other person does nothing in response. The person filing submits the divorce package to the court who then processes the application within a few months. You can expect to pay a lawyer between $1,500 and $2,500 to do this for you, depending on what issues they have to include in the divorce paperwork.
If you do not already agree on all of the issues, the first option to try is negotiation. You can try direct negotiation, where you and your “ex” figure everything out between the two of you, but sometimes this is not possible. In that case, you may want to hire a lawyer to help you with negotiation. The amount you will pay in legal fees will be directly related to the complexity of your issues and how much time the lawyer spends reviewing information, preparing proposals, and negotiating terms with the other lawyer.
Negotiation can range anywhere from email and telephone exchanges to a 4-way negotiation meeting. Your lawyer will not be able to predict exactly how much this stage will cost. The expense of negotiation is directly related to how long it takes you and your “ex” to agree.
Do You Agree, Or Disagree?
If you and your spouse or partner are generally able to agree, your lawyer will not have to engage in much negotiation and your legal fees will be low. On the other hand, if you and your spouse or partner have great difficulty agreeing on anything and you both refuse to “back down”, negotiations may drag on for a long time. In that case there is no limit to how much you might pay in legal fees.
It is not always best to simply agree, but it is true that the quicker you agree the less you will pay in legal fees.
Another option is Mediation. This option might help you come to an agreement with your spouse or partner on all of the issues. In mediation, the mediator controls the process, but you and your spouse or partner are the ones that do all of the negotiating. Where the mediator is also a family law lawyer, the results of a successful mediation will include an agreement that is ready for each of you to sign with your respective lawyers.
There is no need to be represented by a lawyer during mediation, thought you certainly can be if you want. If you are not represented by a lawyer during the mediation, your only expense would be the mediator’s fees.
If mediation or negotiation just don’t work, you will need a 3rd party to make the decisions for you. One option for this is through arbitration. Some arbitrators will require that you have a lawyer, while others will not. If you do not have a lawyer for arbitration, your only fees will be your share of the arbitrator’s fees. However, you may want to have a lawyer represent you at arbitration as it is very important that you make sure that the arbitrator hears all of the relevant evidence and legal arguments.
You cannot force someone into arbitration, you both must agree. This is because an arbitrator’s decision is binding like a Judge’s decision.
Arbitrators in Edmonton charge from around $350-$500 per hour. In Calgary arbitrators charge from around $400-$650 per hour.
Where none of the other options will work, your last resort is to bring a court application and start the litigation process. You can do this with or without a lawyer’s help. If you have a lawyer helping you, you could hire them on a limited scope or legal coaching basis, or for full representation.
Full representation is quite expensive. You can expect to pay around $3,000 to $5,000 in legal fees for only a simple, limited court hearing. More complicated hearings will be in the range of $7,500 to $10,000, and a trial will most likely cost you in excess of $20,000.
Legal coaching or “limited scope” legal services are more affordable, as the amount you pay in legal fees depends on what exactly you want the lawyer to do for you. The Family lawyers at Kahane Law Office offer this type of service, and can be found on our website. You can also go to https://albertalegal.org to find lawyers who do this.
As you can see, the amount you will pay for your divorce depend directly on the dispute resolution option you choose, and how well you and your spouse or partner are able to communicate and come to agreement on your own. Please feel free to reach us in Calgary, Alberta at 403-225-8810 or toll-free at 1-877-225-8817, or email us directly here right away to determine if Kahane Law Office is a good fit for you.