How much does a divorce cost?

Many clients have approached SDF Attorneys for assistance in a divorce matter or simply for some advice regarding a potential divorce in the future (should mediation or couple’s therapy fail down the line) and have asked this very important however very difficult question to answer.

Asking how much a divorce will cost is unfortunately like asking how long a piece of string is – it all depends.

Should the divorce be an unopposed divorce, the cost will be easier to determine as the process is predictable and there is a set amount of work that will be required by our divorce specialist. At SDF Attorneys, we actually charge an all-inclusive once off fee for an unopposed divorce, which makes life much easier for the client as they are able to budget accordingly and there are no unexpected surprises during the process.

If the divorce is an opposed (contested) divorce however, it is almost impossible to give an estimate in terms of total cost. This is because each divorce is so unique – some will settle after one or two weeks of negotiating where others will proceed to a full-blown trial after two years of trying to negotiate a settlement (although this is extremely rare where we are involved as we encourage settlement between the parties).

The factors that must be taken into account when considering the cost of an opposed divorce are the following (among others):

  • The cost of consultations (both in person and telephonic) – your divorce attorney will charge per hour or a pro rata portion thereof for all time spent consulting and advising on your matter.
  • The cost of pleadings – all official court documents (pleadings and notices) in a divorce must be drafted by the divorce lawyer and this will be also be charged for.
    The cost of correspondence – all emails and letters sent and received by the attorney (both from and to you as well as from and to the opponent) are charged for based on the length and complexity of the correspondence and how long it took your attorney to draft or read the document in question.
  • Legal couriers/messengers – this is a cost that cannot be avoided as the pleadings and notices in a divorce matter must be issued, served and filed to be valid. The cost of the couriers/messenger is however still more affordable than if your attorney attended to these duties him/herself.
  • Sheriff’s fees – it is a rule that a divorce summons must be served by sheriff and cannot be served by couriers or your attorney. The sheriff charges a fee for this service and the fee will vary based on the status of the service (urgent or standard), whether they have to try more than once to serve the summons, how far they have to travel to serve the summons etc.
  • Other hard cost disbursements – this includes but is not limited to printing, telephone calls (mobile and local), text messages, envelopes etc.
  • Counsel or advocate’s fees – most divorce specialists (attorneys) will make use of an advocate when the time comes to proceed to trial. The advocate will charge a rate per hour for all court appearances and for any preparatory consultations or briefings that are required.
  • Correspondent’s fees – should one or both of the parties to a divorce reside in another province or country, SDF Attorneys may have to appoint a correspondent attorney closer to the relevant party to ensure that all processes run smoothly and the required documents and pleadings are served timeously and in the correct manner. The correspondent will charge for all work performed on behalf of your attorney (serving pleadings, accepting service of pleadings, communicating with the client on your behalf etc.)

From the above it becomes quite clear that there is a lot more to a divorce than most people believe. There are many role-players involved and the process can take up to two years to finalise which will obviously also mean that the fees incurred will increase dramatically.

This is not to say that a divorce is definitely going to be expensive – this is why it is important to select a divorce attorney who is objective and fair and will secure a favourable result for you without having to proceed all the way to trial.

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