Believe it or not, there are five different types of processes for you to choose from when going through a divorce. Choosing the right process will be the key to a successful resolution. It’s important to review each option and to understand that the option your best friend chose may not be the right option for you and your family.
- Kitchen Table (DIY): You and your spouse would sit at your kitchen table and resolve the issues on your own. Ideally, you’ll obtain legal advice prior to sitting down with your spouse to negotiate. A lawyer would draft the resulting separation agreement. You and your spouse must be able to communicate amicably and problem-solve on your own. The cost depends on how much time lawyers will be involved in creating the agreement. Legal hourly rates range from $195 for a junior lawyer up to $500 for a senior lawyer. This can be done fairly fast but depends on the lawyer’s schedule for creating the agreement.
- Mediation: This process involves a neutral third party (mediator) who helps with communication and negotiations. The agreement that is created is called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which is not intended to be a legally binding document. The intent is to incorporate the decisions described in the MOU into a settlement agreement which will be prepared by a lawyer and registered with the court. You and your spouse would typically obtain legal advice prior but, in some cases, receive legal advice midpoint or after the mediation. Mediation diffuses conflict and promotes communication. Mediation does not just avoid the hostilities that litigation can create, it preserves important assets that litigation can consume. Divorce mediation can take two to six months, and the speed of the process is largely directed by you and your spouse. In most situations, all relevant issues can be resolved in two to five 2-hour sessions. Mediators get paid by the hour, ranging from $ 175 to $500. Retainers range from $750 to $5,000, depending on the complexity of the case. Both you and your spouse would share in the expense of the mediation process.
- Collaborative Team Approach: You and your spouse each have your own lawyer who has been trained in the collaborative law process. With the team approach, there is a family professional – usually a psychologist or social worker – who helps with communication and a parenting plan, and a financial professional who helps with the financials. This process can involve complicated cases; you and your spouse agree not to go to court so everyone works to get to an agreement. Using this team approach allows for successful problem-solving. To start, most lawyers will require a retainer of $3,500-10,000 per spouse, depending on how the team is created. You and your spouse share the costs of the family and financial professionals. Generally, there will be several team meetings with all parties in attendance. To save time and money, in many cases you’ll meet with the family and financial professionals without the lawyers to work on parenting plans and/or financial documents.
- Lawyers Negotiate: You and your spouse each have lawyers speaking on your behalf and much of the correspondence is via letters between the lawyers. In this process, you may feel you have less control. Each lawyer’s role is to advocate for their client, so at times it may seem adversarial depending on the topic and how communications are written and interpreted. Positions may become entrenched and can escalate to court if an impasse is reached. Lawyers draft the separation agreement. To start, most lawyers require an initial retainer of $3,500-10,000 per spouse depending on the complexity of the case and how well you and your spouse get along. The retainer is only the beginning for most people. The time frame varies but an uncontested divorce in Canada ranges from 8 months to 2 years.
- Court: Judges control the outcome; you and your spouse lose all control. This process is very expensive and the time it takes to get a court date is very long. If going to court is the option, the costs will be high – you’ll be paying for the lawyers’ days in court, as well as the court time. Costs start at $5,000-15,000 per day (this varies from province to province).
If you are interested in finding out more about the different options, please get in touch.