One of the most frequent questions from people going through a Divorce is “How Much will the Case Cost?” This is a significant concern as people wish to plan and budget for their family law dispute. Below are the most common questions I am asked when meeting with a client for the first time and my response.
Q: WHAT WILL I HAVE TO PAY WHEN I HIRE A FAMILY LAW LAWYER?
A: At your initial consultation with your family law lawyer he/she will advise you of his/her hourly rate and the hourly rates of other members of the staff who may work on your matter (e.g. law clerks, articling students etc…). Your lawyer will ask you for an initial retainer that is deposited into your lawyer’s trust account. As your lawyer does work on your file he/she will bill you (usually on a monthly basis) based on that amount of time spent. The money held in trust will be used to satisfy the bill. Once the retainer amount is depleted, your lawyer will ask you to replenish the trust amount. You will also be billed for disbursements such as process server’s fees, faxes, photocopies, travel expenses, etc and you will be charged 13% HST on your fees and disbursements.
Q: HOW MUCH WILL THE DIVORCE COST ME?
A: Unfortunately, there is no reasonable way for any lawyer to prognosticate how long your matter will take or how much it will cost in legal fees in a global sense.
Q: WHY CAN’T MY FAMILY LAW LAWYER GIVE ME AN ESTIMATE OF THE COSTS?
A: The reason for this is that there are factors and circumstances outside of your lawyer’s control. Lawyers are capable of controlling workings at their own office but cannot control your spouse or your spouse’s lawyer and cannot know the level of cooperation or in the alterative obstructionary conduct and intentional delay that can be expected of them.
Furthermore, your lawyer initially is only aware of those issues and facts you have related at that time of your initial consultation. At this point in the process, your lawyer is unaware of other issues and facts that may be raised by your spouse and his / her lawyer. As a result, at this point, your lawyer does not have a complete picture of the entire matter.
Moreover, as often happens in family law matters, new issues and facts arise throughout the dispute that were unknown at the time of the initial consultation.
Furthermore, your lawyer cannot control the court process, if your matter goes to litigation. Your lawyer cannot always determine how long it will take to get heard by the judge on the day of your court matter. Your matter is on a list with other matters to be heard by your judge on that particular day. The judge determines the order in which he / she will take us each matter. Moreover, there may be delays in the event the court is running behind schedule, as can often happen. Consequently your lawyer may not be able to tell you definitively how long you will be in court on the day of your conference or motion.
Q: DO LAWYERS EVER GIVE ESTIMATES ON FEES?
A: Lawyers do not as a rule give estimates on fees. However, your lawyer may, from time to time, be in a position to give an estimate with respect to a particular step, such as attending a four way meeting, drafting a separation agreement, or otherwise. Again, your lawyer can only be in a position to estimate the legal fees and time likely to be spent if he/she are aware of all of the issues and facts.
Lianne B. Eklove
Eklove Family Law
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