Common Questions

What does Collaborative Divorce cost?

Collaborative Divorce usually costs significantly less than going to court. Results come more quickly and by consent; they are more durable so parties don’t end up disputing the same issues more than once. That having been said, it is not possible to state a precise cost for the process because each family’s challenges will be different and the nature and extent of services provided will vary greatly. Some families can resolve all their issues within a few weeks while other families can take up to a year.

Collaborative Lawyer’s fees, Divorce Coach fees, Child Specialist fees and Financial Specialist fees depend on the professional hired to do the job. Lawyer’s fees range between $200.00 and $350.00 per hour, while the other professionals will usually charge between $100.00 and $200.00 per hour. Some professionals may offer flat-fee services in particular circumstances.

We accept Legal Aid referrals. If you wish to proceed with a Collaborative Divorce or a Mediation but you do not have the means to afford us, you may qualify for Legal Aid. If you qualify, advise the Legal Services Society (LSS) at the time of approval that you would like to have our firm represent you.

Legal Aid

Legal Aid referrals are limited in scope and we may only be able to provide you with a certain type of service, or we may be limited in the particular issues we are permitted to address for you.

For example, Legal Aid does not always cover family law cases where only property is in dispute; funding is usually reserved for families dealing with parenting or child-related issues as these are considered more pressing. Each case is assessed on an individual basis.

To apply for Legal Aid, call 604-408-2172 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-866-577-2525 (Toll Free, elsewhere in BC).


I’m hiring a whole Team. How can it be cheaper than going to court?

A single application to the court for an order relating to a child (such as to determine where the child will live pending a trial) can involve 10 hours of lawyer preparation time, 4 hours of research, 2-4 hours of waiting to be heard by a judge, 1-4 hours of hearing time, 4 hours of follow-up paperwork, and several hundred dollars in court fees. At $200.00 per hour, this is already over $5,000.00 for the lawyer’s fees, not including the cost of a paralegal and legal secretary, who do support work. Then multiply this by two, because both sides have to do all of this. As there can be half a dozen or more interim court applications of this nature over the course of litigation, the numbers become ridiculous very quickly.

But it’s all worth it to get justice at trial, right? Well, family lawyers often charge flat fees for trial preparation and trial days that can range between $3,000.00 and $7,000.00 a day, per lawyer. So, even when a family has made it through the numerous interim processes leading up to a trial, it is common to settle on the eve of the trial because they simply can’t afford to go any further. By this time, family wealth is exhausted, people are angry and tired, and they are forced to settle like they might have done years and thousands of dollars ago if they had used the Collaborative Divorce process.

The question is: why are these families not spending every dollar on the settlement right from the beginning? The money going into court is the equity in the family home; it is a child’s university tuition; it is a down payment for a child’s starter home; it is a family’s life savings. Of course, this is to say nothing of the emotional and psychological cost of fighting in court, which is itself a serious threat to one’s mental and physical health.


How long does Collaborative Divorce take?

That really depends on the issues that need to be addressed and the relationship between the parties.

There is preparation required before settlement discussions begin. Divorce Coaches may need time to prepare the parties emotionally; financial documents need to be exchanged between lawyers; in some cases, legal research needs to be conducted to understand what the law says about particular issues; children may need time to meet with a Child Specialist; the Financial Specialist may need time to prepare projections.

Once the parties are ready for settlement discussions (normally called “Four-Way Meetings” because they involve two parties and two lawyers) the negotiating can begin.

Each Four-Way can last between 2 and 4 hours; some families can get through the process in 2-5 such meetings. Other families need more meetings, or may want their Divorce Coaches present at the Four-Ways to help with the emotion that might arise.

The bottom line is, it all depends on the family!


Can Collaborative Divorce fail?

Collaborative Divorce success rates are very high (upwards of 85%, anecdotally speaking). Failures may occur when one or both parties are not emotionally ready to address complex legal issues, or when the Collaborative Team is not fully staffed like it maybe should have been (such as when parties try to cut corners or reduce costs). Collaborative Divorce is a team-based approach – and assembling a complete Team when it is required is worth the capital investment.

In the unlikely event the process doesn’t work, the Collaborative Team resigns and whatever was said, done or accomplished during the process is not admissible as evidence in subsequent litigation (with a few notable exceptions, which are explained at the start of the Collaborative Divorce process).

Thus, Collaborative Divorce offers a “safe and effective environment” for negotiations which are frank, honest and to the point, and cannot be used against a party later on.


Collaborative Divorce worked. Now what?

Once the issues between the parties have been discussed and the parties agree on the solutions, the lawyers draft a Separation Agreement together to reflect the settlement.

In most cases, the Separation Agreement will include provisions covering all the issues involving the parties’ children, parenting arrangements, financial matters, property division, and so forth. The Separation Agreement may also include provisions pertaining to how the parties will govern their relations with one another going forward, including provisions for resolving any future disputes through Mediation or other alternative dispute resolution processes.

If the parties have not yet been granted a divorce, it is common for the lawyers to file the paperwork to obtain a court order requesting a divorce. This has to go to court because that’s the only way to get a divorce. But if all the issues between the parties have been resolved in a Separation Agreement, the divorce can be obtained without ever actually appearing in court through what is normally referred to as a “Desk Order Divorce”.

Some see this stage of the process as the end of an era; others see it as a new beginning.


Isn’t this just like Mediation?

Not really. While the lawyers working within Collaborative Divorce are actually all trained Mediators and apply Mediation skills throughout, they retain their loyalty to their respective clients – that is, they take sides and work on behalf of their clients rather than as a neutrals. Acting neutrally is what Mediators do.

Further, Mediation often does not employ lawyers at all (other than the Mediator, who may be a lawyer, but when mediating, is wearing a very different hat). For people who are comfortable arguing and can express themselves well, this can be a blessing. For others, this is difficult because they feel unsure as to whether they are getting a fair deal during the negotiation process, or they may feel like they need the support of another person in order to be fully heard. That’s OK – not every process is for every family.

To learn more about Mediation, see the other sections of our website. It is possible Mediation would be a better process for your family, and we would be thrilled to assist with that as well.


How do I start a Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce requires that both spouses employ Collaborative Lawyers. The process requires lawyers with a particular attitude and skill set, and even well-meaning lawyers who honestly intend to work “collaboratively” simply may not be able to do so until they have been formally trained in Collaborative Divorce. It’s very difficult for many of them to wrap their head around the holistic Collaborative Divorce mentality when they have spent years honing their cunning litigation skills!

A good starting point is to contact us so we can point you and your partner in the right direction. We maintain a list of excellent Collaborative Lawyers (and other professionals) to whom we could refer you or your partner, should a referral be required.


I have other questions…

Click the link below to get in touch with us and we will be more than happy to answer all your questions.


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