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Published On: January 23, 2013

Divorce Lawyer Fees:
Contested vs Uncontested

The website CanadianLawyerMag.com surveyed 179 lawyers and found the following statistics about their rates:

  • The divorce fees charged by a lawyer for an uncontested case vary from a low of $801 to a high of $1,608 with an average of $1,043 per case.
  • The divorce fees charged by a lawyer for a contested case vary from a low of $$5,743 to a high of $33,881 with an average of $9,989 per case.

Keep in mind, disbursements are extra. Typically, there is the court filing fee, a cost to order a marriage certificate and process serving. Most lawyers also add mail, phone calls and photocopy charges as disbursements. Discoveries, appraisals, mediation, domestic specials, and financial audits are other examples of add-ons that can cost hundreds and thousands more.

Also, two lawyers are usually involved in every contested divorce case. That means in a contested situation, the average divorce fees only for both parties could easily be as high as double or more the amount of the quote above — or well over $40,000 plus disbursements.

Uncontested Divorce Legal Fees:
Lawyers vs Paralegals

Divorce paralegals are likely to include some expenses (postage, phone calls, photocopying, etc) as part of the fee for a divorce. Accordingly, in comparison to paralegals, the fees charged by lawyers for an uncontested divorce may be understated. The Defendant does not have to hire a lawyer in an uncontested divorce situation.

Fees charged by paralegals for an uncontested divorce average at least 50% lower than the fees charged by lawyers, and range from $500 to $1,000, depending on experience and level of service provided. Some lower-priced paralegals still ask the applicant to do his/her own filing and serving, but higher-priced paralegal professionals often handle everything from beginning to end.

Uncontested Divorce Paralegal
Contested Divorce Lawyers

For fun, I thought I’d do this comparison. The average fee charged by a paralegal is $750.00 in an uncontested divorce situation. The average total fee for both parties in a contested situation can be as high as $40,000.00. Disbursements and GST are extra. Remember, we are talking averages and in a contested situation when there are usually 2 lawyers. If the husband and wife agree to be transparent, truthful and cooperative, and instead opt for a cooperative situation it is possible they could reduce their fee to 2% ($40,000.00 x 2% = $800.00). That is an average savings of $38,200.00.

Rate Chart

Divorce FeesSummary

The divorce costs quoted above do not include legal costs which may have been incurred prior to the parties seeking a divorce. The parties may have sought a separation agreement or court order involving the children in advance of a divorce and these claims may or may not have been contested.

Total divorce costs by paralegals are significantly lower, provided the parties can learn to get a long, be truthful and transparent. Paralegals can also help with separation agreements and other applications, provided they are uncontested.  However, a good paralegal will not assist in drafting a legal separation agreement unless both parties get independent legal advice and sign the Agreement with their respective lawyers–not with the paralegal.

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