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How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Canada?

The average divorce in Canada costs $18,000, with prices ranging anywhere from $3000 to $33,000 depending on how involved the divorce is and how much fighting takes place. 

Yet there are ways to manage divorce costs. Here’s what you need to know.


Amicable Divorce: The Cheaper Option

The people who spend the least on divorce take emotions out of the process. Instead, they act as if they are dissolving a business and set about trying to create a settlement both spouses can live with. They move past the idea of “punishing” their spouse and focus their attentions on the negotiation process instead.

There are a few forms a successful amicable divorce can take. In some cases, both attorneys can come to an agreement on a settlement offer that both spouses then go on to sign off on. 

Sometimes it’s necessary to bring in a mediator. A mediator is also trained in the law, and trained in working together with both parties to come to a settlement.

One way to get into the right mindset is to ask your lawyer what the best and worst case scenarios look like. Canadian law rarely allows one party to walk off with the majority of the assets unless the spouse has plainly tried to recklessly deplete or hide assets out of spite. Most of the time, the settlement is roughly equal to both sides. If you can get a settlement somewhere between the best case and the worst case, then it’s probably fair enough. 


Contested Divorce: Fighting is Expensive!

A contested divorce is also known as a defended divorce. Technically you have a contested divorce the moment your spouse issues a counteroffer to your initial divorce proposal, but it doesn’t exactly get expensive unless you or your spouse pushes the case into litigation.

While all divorces will include at least one court date so the judge can go over the proposed divorce decree, ensuring it complies with the law, divorces that go to trial are long, expensive, and unpredictable. Attorneys have to prepare twice as much, and you end up paying both for that prep work and for every court appearance. Meanwhile, your case gets decided by a judge who knows little about you and your spouse’s unique situation. This usually results in worse outcomes for both parties. 


Quick Divorce: Joint Application

A joint divorce is one of the fastest, easiest, most inexpensive divorces. To file a joint divorce, you will both have to agree to the divorce and the major issues of the divorce and then file the appropriate forms together.

The result of many successful mediations and amiable divorces is often a joint divorce.

Nevertheless, each party should still have their own attorney to help ensure that the terms of the divorce are legal, and to protect their interests. 


Legal Fees

The court fees for filing the divorce will vary by province. 

Lawyer fees vary as well. Much can depend on your lawyer’s experience and client load. Any lawyer will go over their fees long before formally accepting you as a client.

Fees are charged hourly, and you can expect them to range from $100 to $400 depending on average. When choosing a lawyer you should consider whether or not you are comfortable with the attorney and impressed by their skill, not just whether or not that attorney’s fees are the lowest. 


The Long-Term Financial Costs of Divorce

You should expect your standard of living to change somewhat during the divorce, though Canadian law is set up to ensure it doesn’t plummet much lower than your spouse’s. You may need to purchase services your spouse always took care of for free, before. You may be going from a two-income household to a one-income household. You may have new payments that you have to make.

In addition, dividing property could have long-term financial implications, especially if it’s not handled carefully. Your retirement account may be worth a bit less.

Credit scores can tend to take a hit after a divorce. You may need to sell your house and move somewhere less expensive. There may be tax implications to your eventual divorce settlement that you’ll need to watch out for.

As your family law attorneys, we work hard to make sure that the consequences of your divorce are as light as possible, but it’s impossible to keep divorce from having at least some impact on your financial future. 


Ways to Cut Divorce Costs

In addition to aiming for an amicable divorce, you can cut costs by:

  • Being fully prepared for your initial meeting with your attorney, bringing all financial documents and forms.
  • Write your questions down before you start talking to your attorney. That way you’ll make the most of the time you have together and won’t generate additional billable time by sending multiple follow-up emails.
  • Go in ready to accept the first reasonable settlement you hear.
  • Share your goals with your attorney. What is the most important thing you want to see happen in your divorce settlement? What’s negotiable? This will help us negotiate a workable divorce settlement faster.

We will never push you to trial if it’s not in your best interests. Trial should usually be reserved for abusive relationships where an amicable divorce is absolutely impossible. We will always advise you to try to work with your ex, first. 


Get Help Today

We’ve helped thousands of Canadians navigate their divorce cases while keeping costs as reasonable as possible. 

We help clients in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. We’re known for being some of Canada’s savviest negotiators and toughest litigators. We’re also a full service law firm, which means you get the benefit of working with skilled attorneys who have a firm backing in real estate and business law. This allows us to come up with sophisticated legal solutions to your division of property and spousal support issues, and to preserve the value of your assets.

Contact Merchant Law to get started today

About Donald I.M. Outerbridge

Donald became the Executive Director of Merchant Law Group LLP starting in 1993, nearly 30 years ago. His experience managing law firms at various levels and in multiple provinces across Canada goes back even further to 1981.

Please note: The information provided on this website is Not Legal Advice. The information may or may not be accurate. The information is for discussion purposes only. Reliance upon any information provided would not be grounds to advance a claim against Merchant Law for providing any advice. In order to get a formal legal opinion upon which you may rely about any specific fact scenario, you would have to first retain the services of a lawyer and request a formal legal opinion.