Most people want to know the costs of a divorce lawyer upfront but it depends on multiple factors—some of which are in your control and others that are not.
The single most important factor is likely to be whether you and your spouse agree on the key terms of the divorce. Typically, disputes arise over child custody, child support, spousal support and marital property division. If a divorce lawyer must collaborate or mediate a resolution between you and your spouse, the costs will rise because of the amount of time required.
If your lawyer handles all related issues, such as filing forms and paperwork with the courts, this will also increase charges.
Generally speaking, divorces between couples with children cost more than simpler divorces where property division and spousal support are the main elements to decide.
At a minimum, expect to pay $1,000-$1,500 if you hire a divorce lawyer. But, with an hourly rate of between $200 and $650 in Vancouver, it can quickly increase in the event of complications.
Generally speaking, the more experienced the lawyer, the higher the hourly rate. In complicated divorces, experience can count for a lot. However, if your divorce is relatively straightforward, with few outstanding issues, you do not need to hire a lawyer with 30 years of courtroom experience.
Other factors affecting total legal costs apart from the lawyer’s hourly rate and the level of conflict/dispute include the following:
- Whether experts need to be brought into the case, e.g., business valuators, property appraisers, psychologists, etc.
- The willingness of the parties to resolve matters out of court—generally, an attitude of compromise will help matters get solved quicker.
- How organized you are—a couple with well-organized finances, timelines, and the required documentation makes less work for a divorce lawyer (and lower fees).
Couples who agree on all matters can file for an uncontested divorce. Arranging this yourself incurs some standard court fees but you may save legal costs.
There are two separate court fees for divorce in Vancouver:
- $210 to file documents, and
- $80 when you make the final application
You may also incur costs for hiring a process server to serve documents on your spouse, swearing affidavits in front of a notary, getting a certified copy of your marriage certificate, translations into English, and ordering a Certificate of Divorce.
Bear in mind that many uncontested divorces still develop disputes—and divorce is never truly uncontested until both spouses agree to sign a separation agreement.