Lawyer's Fees

Ontario woman lawyer

*This is an excerpt from John Schuman’s book, Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law, available by clicking here. See the bottom of the page for a video that also explains lawyer’s fees.

Family Lawyers bill by the hour (or part thereof).  That means that when they are working on your case or talking to you, they bill based on the amount of time it takes.  Lawyers are selling there time as professionals (in much the same way that psychologists and many other professionals do).  Except for very few instances, they cannot predict how much something will cost.

In my practice, we charge $1500.00 for a simple uncontested divorce.  That covers the costs of serving the divorce documents on the other side, paying all of the court filing fees, paying for the clearance certificate from the federal government, paying the costs we are charged for the court forms and a bit of the salary for the person who does the work getting it all together.  We can do that because there is nothing to fight about, and no variables.  Everything is straightforward and predictable.

Aside from uncontested divorces, there is pretty much no circumstance when we (or any lawyer) knows exactly what the cost will be.  It is NOT like replacing a part in your car where the cost of the part and the mechanics time are known.  How long your case will take, and thus how expensive it will be, depends on a number of factors.  Those include:

  1. how much the parties want to fight.  The bigger the battle, the more costly the war,
  2. the complexity of the issues.  If there a party’s financial situation is complex, it will take longer to figure out what the appropriate result should be.   There are a lot of legal issues that come up just in determining the income of someone who is self-employed.
  3. whether court is required and what court.   There are a lot of rules to protect people’s rights in fights before the court.  While those rules ensure fairness, they also result in time-consuming and expensive procedures to follow.   Add to this that some courts are very busy, so lawyers and parties have to sit and wait to be heard.  When a lawyer cannot be working on other files because he or she is in court, then it is only fair that the lawyer bill for his or her time in court.
  4. if there is a lot of disclosure to be collected from you or the other-side, that can take a lot of time.  The more your lawyer has to chase you to get required documents, the more time he or she will spend and the more it will cost.
  5. some clients want to speak to their lawyers frequently and for long periods of time.  That can be important to allow the client to understand what is going on and what the options are.  However, if you are speaking to your lawyer for long periods of time, that lawyer cannot get work done for other clients.   If what you need is someone to talk to about issues that are not legal ones, then it is less expensive to get a counsellor than speak to your lawyer.   Your lawyer should always listen to you, but remember that if you are taking up time, you will have to pay for it.
  6. custody and access disputes are very long, very complex, involve lots of witnesses, lots of professionals, lots of legal issues and therefore are very expensive.  Sometimes you have to fight to look after your kids.  But, keep in mind that those fights, which are very important, are by their nature very complicated and expensive.

Family Lawyers know that they are not working for corporations with lots of resources.  They are working for people at a time when finances are often stretched already.   Family lawyers know that their fees can cause additional problems.  Good family lawyers are busy.  They have lots of people who need them, so they do not need to make cases complicated.  Good family lawyers know that it is better for the family to resolve the issues as quickly and inexpensively as possible - while still ensuring that their client is not sacrificing too much.   That is what is best for the family -and is what is best for the lawyer, because happy clients refer their friends.

There are wide ranges in a lawyer’s hourly fees.  Some lawyers are less than $100 per hour. Some are more than $1000.00 per hour.  Usually, you get what you pay for.   Lawyers who are more than $300.00 per hour are usually lawyers with experience and know how to deal with complex issues.  They know how to get to a resolution.   They also know good strategies that, in Canada, can result in the other side paying the legal bills.   If you are self-employed, have a trust, have a complex custody issue, or have some wealth, it is worth your while to find a lawyer who knows how to address those issues.  Having a good lawyer from the start, even at a higher hourly rate, will save you money in the end.

If you want yo keep your family lawyer’s fees down, watch this video for some important tips: 

Guide to the Basic of Ontario Family Law (Book)

In addition to the information above, John Schuman’s $20-easy-to-understand book on Ontario Family Law, gives many tips for keeping your legal fees down in family law matters.  There are many mistakes you can make that will cost you a lot of money.  The book goes into them in detail, but they are also summarized in this podcast and on this video.  The Guide to the Basics of Ontario  Family Law also explains how you can keep costs under control and save a lot of money using the alternatives to Family Court such as family mediation, arbitration or collaborative practice.  

iBookstore_140x70Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law Available on KindleKobo Logo

Doing your divorce right may mean spending a little money to protect yourself - but that will save you money in the end.  In addition, acting reasonably, make smart decisions, and getting advice from an expert family law lawyer will also keep your costs down and save you money in the long run.   At all of his consultations, Certified Specialist in Family Law, John Schuman, goes over all of the client’s options and explains what steps will put have the most money in his or her pocket when the divorce or family law matter is finished.  You can reach him using the form below or the phone number at the top of this page. 


Abankwa Danie: This article is very informative . 


Lisa Marie Vari - Managing Attorney at Vari & Associates, Pittsburgh & Miami Divorce & Family Law Lawyers:

The information on your site is great, John. Thanks for sharing.

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© John P. Schuman 2014