Calculation of Fees
The estimation of fees for a family law matter is no easy task.
Essentially there are three factors which determine the cost in a family law matter:
- Level Of Complexity
Given that family law often requires the redistribution of assets and income, it brings in several other areas of law.
In virtually every family law matter, we must deal with the standard family law issues of support for children or spouses. The division of property will often include real estate law, estate law, pension law and the income tax implications relating to that. For persons who are self-employed, considerations of corporate law, employment law and the regulations, both Federal and Provincial regulations that govern the business in question will also come into play. Consequently, the greater the degree of the level of analysis, the greater the costs are likely to be.
As the complexity of the financial needs and means of the parties increases, so does the cost of acquiring a resolution of those issues.
The relationship of the parties will always be a determinative factor in the cost to complete a settlement.
Though much of the determination of family law issues revolves around the practical redistribution of income and property, the reasons behind the dissolution of the marriage will often play a significant role in determining the level of cooperation and conflict between the parties.
Often, the parties to a separation are in different stages. One party may have been contemplating the separation for a significant period of time while the other is in denial.
The higher the degree of conflict between the parties, the more likely additional time will be required to effect a resolution.
- Organizational Skills Of The Parties
The more organized a party may be, the less it will cost to complete the matter.
For example, we will be asking you to complete a Financial Statement. If you complete that Financial Statement comprehensively and provide accurate and consistent documentation to back up the assets and liabilities declared in the Financial Statement. The cost to complete the financial analysis will be modest, particularly if you provide a tabbed and indexed file or binder of your disclosure. Conversely, it will cost considerably more to complete a financial statement if you provide us with a plastic garbage bag stuffed with miscellaneous statements and bits of paper.
We often suggest that you set up a binder in which you organize email, correspondence and financial documents. We also suggest you keep notes of all our meetings and telephone conferences. We bill according to time expended. If you ask us the same question five times, we will have to bill you five times for the same answers.
Mediation is more often than not the most cost effective way to reach an agreement. In most cases, in order to be successful, the parties to mediation should be on reasonably good terms and capable of working together to find common ground. Mediation is difficult to provide where the parties are of unequal bargaining power, there are control issues between the parties or there is a history of abuse or violence.
Again, the cost of mediation services will vary according to the factors listed above. However, due to the fact that there is one primary mediator and each parties’ legal counsel are providing advice on an “as needed” basis, the costs are more modest.
Collaborative Family Law
Generally speaking, the costs of Collaborative Family Law fall between that of the standard resolution model of negotiations between counsel and the costs of mediation. Collaborative family law is most effective where the one party has historically managed the family finances, the matter has some financial complexity or the parties feel they need the on going support and assistance of counsel, but with to proceed in a co-operative, respectful and non-adversarial manner.
Litigation is not cost effective. It should always be a last resort when all avenues of resolution have proven ineffective.
In the event that the matter goes to litigation, it is important to note that litigation can assume a life of its own. Litigation is enormously expensive, both financially and emotionally. Once a Court process begins, with the accusations, allegations and mutual blame that fuels an adversarial process, it is often difficult to stop. It is well within the realm of possibilities that litigation can go well into five figures, even on a relatively uncomplicated matter.
Consequently, it is very difficult to provide a blanket or ball park estimate of fees without an analysis of each individual matter. Each marriage or significant relationship is unique and consequently, the resolutions of those relationships are also unique.
Fees and Retainers
We generally ask for a retainer to be provided when a file is opened. The retainer is based upon an estimate of the fees required for the tasks to be completed. We usually will ask for a retainer sufficient to cover the costs anticipated for a particular Court process or for the work anticipated for the coming month. We will provide you with a retainer agreement that specifies the fees to be charged and to work to be accomplished.
Any unused retainer funds shall be returned to you upon completion of the matter.
Many clients will authorize the use of a credit card or auto debit to avoid any disruption in work to be completed.
We will keep a record of the time spent on your file and will apply an hourly rate for services as provided. The hourly rate varies depending on the experience of the lawyer and the nature of the work to be provided.
The hourly rates are intended to be a “control” based on our overhead and costs of carrying on practice. Please note that the time engaged in telephone conversations and correspondence, including emails, will be docketed and charged. To keep you advised of developments, you will receive copies of pertinent correspondence and documentation, both sent and received.
In some circumstances we will utilize a block fee that is a fixed fee for the work to be performed. Typically, these fees involve services of a defined nature, such as an uncontested divorce, most real estate transactions and Wills and Powers of Attorney.
Disbursements will be additional to fees. These are the actual out-of-pocket expenses which we incur on your behalf.
Please note that both disbursements and fees are subject to HST.
GST/HST is payable when an account is rendered. Consequently, it is imperative that appropriate retainers be provided as necessary.
It is our practice to bill the account on a monthly basis and provide you with a full report of all charges, fees and work done on your file at that time. We encourage you to feel free to discuss with us any issues that arise from your review of the account.
We encourage our clients to question or discuss any fees payable at any time. We diligently try to provide the most cost effective representation that suits the needs of your particular situation.