The cost of contested divorce proceedings in court is high. Hourly rates for divorce lawyers range from $175 to $350 per hour. The duration of a typical contested divorce in court may be 6-12 months. Clients are often left with legal bills they cannot afford to pay.
There are alternatives. Court proceedings for a divorce should be used as a last resort, only after efforts to settle by other means are tried and fail. Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) is becoming more the norm today. ADR allows parties to resolve their matrimonial disputes themselves without the need to have a judge decide important issues for them and their family. ADR methods include mediating family disputes with a trained mediator and/or lawyer and collaborative family law. Collaborative family lawyers work together with clients to resolve all issues in dispute in an informal, out-of-court setting. Clients who can resolve their family-law disputes through ADR often express more satisfaction with the outcome and the cost than clients involved in contested court proceedings.
If a divorce has to go to court, there are ways to keep the cost down. Family-law clients should provide full financial disclosure so that lengthy and expensive examinations of that client’s financial statement are not required. In addition, clients involved in contested proceedings should seriously consider all reasonable offers to settle made by the other side in order to avoid the financial and emotional costs of proceeding to a contested trial.
Ken Nathens is a partner in the law firm of Nathens Siegel, a Toronto firm that restricts its practice to divorce and family-law issues. Ken has experience in all aspects of divorce and Ontario family law and devotes much of his time to assisting clients with custody and access disputes.