The website CanadianLawyerMag.com surveyed 570 lawyers and found the following statistics about their divorce fees in Canada:
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 that in a contested situation, the average total 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. That is 25.9 times greater than an uncontested divorce ($1,540 * 25.9 = $40,000).
Divorce paralegals are likely to include some expenses (postage, phone calls, photocopying, etc) as part of the divorce fee. Accordingly, in comparison to paralegals, the divorce 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.
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 is at least $40,000.00. Disbursements and GST are extra. Remember, we are talking averages and in a contested situation 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.
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.