Common Questions

What does litigation cost?


Litigation is the generally and by far the most expensive option available to resolve family law disputes because of the amount of paperwork and strategizing involved in the process.

At rates of $150.00 to $300.00 per hour, that can quickly add up to tens of thousands of dollars, multiplied by two given both partners end up having to pay for lawyers and court time. The lack of collaboration also usually means repeated tasks and attempts to undermine the other side’s progress.

In addition, charges for filing and couriering of documents, securing professional assessments like psychologist’s reports and medical reports, photocopying and the like quickly balloon to unmanageable amounts. For example, a professional report recommending parenting arrangements for children (a common document in family litigation) costs between $8,000.00 to $10,000.00 for the report alone, not including the time the opposing lawyers will spend dissecting it.

In 2007, the Toronto Star estimated that a 3-day civil trial is likely to cost at least $60,738 – more than the median family income in Canada of $58,100. The estimate is conservative because trials often take longer than 3 days. In Ontario, the average “custody case” lasts for 5 days and many go on for 8 days.

We accept Legal Aid referrals. If you wish to proceed with litigation 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).

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Is litigation right for me?


Litigation is appropriate in certain circumstances. Usually it is reserved for people who have tried everything else with no success, or those who have experienced such abuse or violence during a relationship that negotiation is not possible or advisable (though it is highly questionable whether even litigation can protect these people adequately against further abuse).

Unfortunately, litigation is also in many cases the chosen dispute resolution method for people who have not been made truly aware of alternatives when first visiting their lawyers and for people who have a lot of money to spend on satisfying their need to be openly resentful or spiteful. Litigation unfortunately also gets called the process of choice for people who need a “strong advocate” on their side. This presupposes that other processes mean access to “weak advocacy”, which is untrue.

Part of our task is to help you make a meaningful, educated and appropriate process choice for your family. Talk to us and we can help you determine whether litigation is the process for you.

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How long does litigation take?


The time it takes to mediate a dispute or resolve it collaboratively really depends on the issues that need to be addressed and the relationship between the parties. Litigation, on the other hand, is subject to external influences such as court availability.

A typical litigation timeline might be as follows:

A Notice of Family Claim is filed, which is followed by a Response and Counterclaim. A Response to the Counterclaim is then filed. This process takes between 1 and 2 months. The parties are then required to file detailed Financial Statement affidavits, supported by documents. Securing and filing these documents can take between 1 and 4 months. The parties are then often required to attend mediation-like processes overseen by a judge. Scheduling these can take a further 1 to 4 months. After that, evidence gathering and discoveries take place, and witnesses are interviewed. Professional reports may be sought at this time, and can take between 1 and 6 months. A trial date is set. Several pre-trial conferences occur to prepare for the trial. It is common to wait 6 months to a year or longer for a trial to allow for preparation. Even then, the trial date is not guaranteed; they get moved frequently due to the changes in availability of evidence and the schedules of lawyers.

The conservative example provided offers a litigation timeline between 10 and 28 months. This is normal and does NOT include time required for interim applications to the court which may slow the entire process down. Interim applications may involve asking the court for orders about temporary parenting arrangements, selling of real estate and the like. These applications are very common as lawyers “strategize”, attempt to cement a favourable status quo, and build evidence against the other side.

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Can litigation fail?


The only absolute certainty in litigation is that there WILL be a result: if the parties are unable to resolve their dispute in the time leading up to trial, a judge will, with absolute certainty, hear the evidence, listen to the arguments of the lawyers and make a decision that affects the lives of the parties and their children. (Of course, this is assuming the parties have enough money to go through with a trial.)

Judges do not decide cases based on their own feelings or personal opinions; they are required to apply the law to the facts available to them and within the boundaries of what is admissible as evidence in court. The judge in a family case will only be permitted to hear a very limited amount of information about the family in question and will have no real way to know for certain what might be best for that family. The judge will do his or her best with what is available, and make an educated guess. In many cases, through no fault of the judge, the educated guess falls short of the mark, at least insofar as the family members themselves are concerned.

If the judge’s order says the matrimonial home must be sold, even if against everyone’s wishes, it will be sold; or if it says children are to live with one parent or the other irrespective of their wishes, the children will have to live as ordered. The power to make decisions affecting intimate parts of family life is handed over, and the parties have to live with the consequences of their inability to resolve their disputes respectfully and collaboratively.

Generally speaking, the court system as it exists is simply not designed to address the complex social network that is the family.

So, can litigation fail? In one word, absolutely.

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The process worked. Now what?


A final order is in place, and parties must abide by its terms, whatever they may be. Generally, if they have no children, they move on with whatever possessions and money are left, and pay or receive whatever spousal support was ordered.

If they have children, until they are adults, chances are theyeither pay or receive child support and spousal support monthly, and do their best to recover from the economic and emotional damage of the separation to put the children through school. They probably have to deal with ex-partners on a daily basis to manage parenting issues, education issues, travel and vacations, holidays and other family events, except now they have the bitterness of litigation history between them.

At this point, the reality sets in for many parties that relationships end – but co-parenting goes on forever.

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How do I start the process?


Contact us and we can discuss your process choice with you.

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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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