Many people decide not to seek legal advice because they think lawyers are expensive. While it is true that there are costs attached to legal services, there are also the costs (both monetary and emotional) of navigating through the maze of legal issues related to a divorce or separation without competent legal advice. A good lawyer can guide you, watch out for you, and protect you from being taken advantage of. A good lawyer can also explore the most cost effective options available to resolve your case.
In a nutshell, not retaining a lawyer can be more costly than retaining one.
I recognize that during the current economic downturn, managing costs is an essential part of achieving a successful outcome, and I will work with you to manage your legal separation and divorce costs. I am committed to proceeding with your divorce or separation in the most cost effective manner possible. Regardless of the legal procedure that we follow, careful attention to the costs involved is always my priority. I realize that uncertainty breeds anxiety, and I will help you minimize both. While the total costs of resolving your family law issues might be difficult to predict, I will always inform you about the costs of the next step and discuss the alternatives with you.
I offer a brief initial consultation over the phone at no cost to you.
An in-person initial consultation for up to 90 minutes is offered at the discounted rate of $200 plus HST.
My standard rate ranges from $275 to $290 per hour, depending on the complexity of the matter and efforts required to resolve your issues. HST is applicable to all legal fees and disbursements.
When you decide to retain me to represent you in your family law matters, which always involves signing a Retainer Agreement, a monetary retainer (initial deposit) is required. The amount of the retainer will depend on the complexity of your family law matter. The purpose of the retainer is to guarantee the payment of my fees, and to pay the costs that I have to cover on your behalf (lawyers refer to these costs as disbursements), such as court fees and server fees.
I also offer a range of services based on a flat-rate basis:
1. Uncontested divorce: $1400 plus HST inclusive of disbursements. Extra fee may be chargeable if the opposing party resides outside of the GTA area or the Court having the jurisdiction to make the Divorce Order is outside of the GTA area.
2. Foreign divorce opinion letter for matters that meet the legislative criteria: $300 plus HST. An extra fee of $50 plus HST is applicable if you want us to receive or send documents on your behalf.
3. Separation Agreement: from $2500. This price covers the costs of drafting the separation agreement only. Per hour rate will apply to negotiating terms of the separation agreement.
4. Marriage or Cohabitation Agreement: from $3500. This price covers the costs of drafting the Marriage or Cohabitation agreement only. Per hour rate will apply to negotiating terms of the Marriage or Cohabitation agreement.
5. Statutory declaration: from $175.
6. The costs of notary public services or commissioning your signature are:
$40 for the first document
$25 for each subsequent document.
7. Will, Power of Attorney for Personal Care, and Power of Attorney for Property: $400 plus HST, including all meetings necessary to answer your questions, discuss your circumstances, and receive instructions. For a couple (2 separate Wills, Powers of Attorney for Personal Care and Powers of Attorney for Property), there is a discounted price of 750$ plus HST.
Costs of drafting the documents that need notarization vary based on the time spent.
Same day or walk-in service may be available. Please call to inquire.
Legal Aid Certificates
I believe that it is every lawyer’s duty to provide legal services to those who are not able to afford them, which is why I do accept a limited number of Legal Aid Certificates each year.
When you have obtained your Legal Aid Certificate, feel free to call me to ask whether I will be able to accept it.
Please do not call before obtaining the Certificate. I need to know the details of the Certificate before I decide to accept it.
How to lower your legal costs
Once you decide who is going to represent your family matter, it is in your best interest to lower your legal bills. Here are a few simple ways that will help you do it:
1. Organize yourself. Prepare a summary of the events. Type it up (deciphering handwritten documents takes time, and you are the one paying for your lawyer’s time.)
2. Stay organized. During your initial consultation with me, bring as much information as you can. This will cut down on the time I will need to spend gathering information on your case.
3. Make your own photocopies. Instead of paying me to do this, offer to make all necessary copies of documents before you hand them over. A rule of thumb is to make three sets of everything, organize them well, and label them clearly.
4. Don’t give tons of unnecessary information. Very often you may want to give reams of paper or stacks of disks that are irrelevant and unrequested. This will result in me having to spend many hours reviewing information that isn’t necessary. The same goes for repetitive information given by email or phone.
5. Do for yourself what you can. It may make more sense for the client to keep in touch with potential witnesses rather than relying on me to have to continually keep in touch with them. Also, try to complete paperwork on your own first, rather than spending billable hours reading it for the first time while I sit and watch you.
6. Be candid when speaking to me. Remember that what you say to me is confidential. If you do not give me all the facts at the outset of your case, and they come into play later on, they will complicate my job and cost you more in legal fees.
7. Utilize email efficiently. Rather than always meeting in person or talking on the phone, communicate via email. Email enables me to answer you when I have the opportunity to do so. It also enables you to hold on to my answers and review them more than once, which helps avoid misunderstandings. Remember, legal matters are complicated and may require a lot of explanation.
8. Minimize unnecessary phone calls. One fifteen-minute phone call can cost you over $50. The costs add up. Next time you think you need to pick up the phone, ask yourself if the issue is critical or if you are simply calling to have your hand held.
9. Plan ahead. Think about what you want to say prior to meeting, and write down a list of any questions you have before calling me. This will also reduce the amount of time I spend on your case.
10. Consolidate questions and ask them all at once. Keep a running list of questions and ask them all during your next meeting or phone call. Days, even weeks, might pass without movement in your case. You may feel impatient and anxious. It's easy to pick up the phone every time you have a question and end up chatting for a half an hour. Take a deep breath and resist the urge.
11. Be brief when speaking to me. Stick to topics related to your case because you will be billed for all the time you spend speaking with your counsel.
12. Read each bill from me carefully and do not be afraid to question any charges that you do not understand.
13. Vent to your friends, family or therapist, but not to your lawyer. That's what a support network is for. If you need handholding, call a friend, call your mom, or talk to a therapist. I am there to be the objective advocate in the business of settling your divorce - not to solve your emotional pain.
14. Consider what you will gain vs. what you will lose by prolonging your case. Every step of the way, you will make choices that can impact the length and complication of your case. At every turn, ask yourself if you are unnecessarily prolonging the matter out of spite or bitterness. This will only cost you and your spouse emotional energy, time, and money.
15. Consider a settlement. Depending on your situation and your case, you may want to consider a settlement. Negotiated settlements are typically cheaper than having to go to trial. It is not considered a weakness or a failure to accept a settlement if that settlement is fair and just. Remain open to all of your options instead of pushing for the “big win” in court.
16. Discuss your concerns with me. If you are concerned with your legal bill, or have any other concerns, you should feel free to discuss it with me. I understand my clients’ concerns, and will try to help you, and address your concerns in any way I can.