A Flat Fee Divorce - How to Make it Work for You in BC

Our flat fee divorce billing process gives you a breakdown of what to expect for your payment for not only your legal fees, but the disbursements and taxes. The point is that legal fees can add up and it is great to know what your entire investment will be up front for a particular service. 

At Pathway Legal we are transparent about our billing practices and we know that our clients love that about us. They also love flat fees. Imagine knowing EXACTLY how much your matter is going to cost BEFORE you get started.

Val: How to make a flat fee divorce work for you

You may have many more questions around the average cost of divorce mediation, the average cost of a divorce lawyer, who pays for divorce etc. which we cover here: “How Much Does Divorce Cost".

However, because clients love flat fees and we love our clients, we offer the following services by way of flat fee and give them clarity and certainty whenever we can.

We offer fixed fees for the following:

  • Drafting your legally binding agreement: Separation Agreement, Cohabitation Agreement, Marriage Agreement, Prenuptial Agreement
  • Your Uncontested Divorce
  • Uncontested Divorce for Current Pathway Legal Clients
  • Independent Legal Advice on an Agreement Drafted by another Lawyer or the other party
  • Notarizing a document with no legal advice sought or given

We are also clear and transparent about what your flat fee includes and what it does not include. 

How much are divorce fees

It is no secret lawyer fees for divorce can be scary. They can be scary because you usually do not know what lawyer fees for divorce entail and when they will end. Nobody wants to write a blank cheque, particularly to their divorce lawyer. We get it. That is why using fixed fee divorce lawyers can be beautiful for you and your changing family. 

Typically divorce lawyer fees have a wide range. In our experience at Pathway Legal, we can resolve your family matter for as little as $3,200 or as much as six figures depending upon the complexity of your matter, whether or not there is litigation, and whether or not your family has complex finances, such as families who require a high net worth divorce lawyer. 

The good news is that there are circumstances when you can control the amount of lawyer fees for divorce.

The good news is that there are circumstances when you can control the amount of lawyer fees for divorce.

Flat fee divorce costs for non-court matters

Even though a divorce is a court order, that piece of paper that says you are divorced, you do not always have to hire your lawyer to travel to court, stand in front of a judge, and make your plea to get divorced. When there are uncontested divorce proceedings, your matter proceeds as if it is non-court. It means that your lawyer does not have to argue against another lawyer, prepare an arguments, and make submissions before a judge. This is what we call a desk order divorce. 

What is a separation agreement

Graphic with image of alpaca alongside text about divorce and separation agreements

Flat fee divorce costs can work especially well for a separation agreement. But before discussing that, let’s clear the air on this one!

Contrary to popular belief a divorce is nothing more than a fancy court paper waving goodbye to your marriage. Your separation agreement (or court order) is doing the heavy lifting in terms of getting closure and moving forward with your future.

A family law separation agreement contains all the things you want it to in order to have absolute clarity regarding what is expected of you and what is expected of your ex-spouse post-separation. It will set out how you divide your assets, support payments, and if you have kids, your parenting plan. It will also contain important releases showing that you are released from obligations to each other under other BC legislation. 

You can get a separation agreement in various ways all using alternative dispute resolution ADR processes. We usually utilize mediation, mediation/arbitration, collaborative family law, and four-way meetings at Pathway Legal. Sometimes, though, after meeting with us and getting initial legal advice and information, our clients negotiate directly with their ex-spouses and ask us to draft a legally binding agreement. 

This is the perfect circumstance for a flat fee divorce retainer with your lawyer.

Your legally binding separation agreement inclusive of legal fees, disbursements, and taxes:

Your flat fee of $3,045.50 is comprised of:

  • Legal service  (lawyer fees for a prenuptial agreement are the same): $2,500
  • Divorce Mate software fee: $95
  • Cloud (encrypted and secure) storage and administration fee: $95
  • Printing, scanning, photocopies: $20 
  • Agency fees: $25 (We utilize court agents that we have worked with for almost 30 years. They stand in line at the courthouse and file documents, so you don’t have to pay your lawyer or our support staff to do it. It is a win/win for everyone.)
  • GST on legal fees: $125
  • PST on legal fees: $175
  • GST on disbursements: $10.50 
  • All-inclusive flat fee with disbursements and taxes: $3,045.50

In order to qualify for the flat fee for your legally binding agreement you must:

  • Accurately fill out the firm intake form in its electronic format.
  • Provide your Pathway Legal lawyer with a written-out draft of your proposed agreement.
  • In addition to your initial consultation, you agree to meet with your Pathway Legal lawyer up to two further instances to review and confirm the terms of the agreement, or document that is to be prepared.
  • Fully and accurately fill out the asset and debt section of the financial statement form (with your paralegal's assistance if you wish).

Your flat fee includes the following:

  • Your Pathway Legal lawyer will provide you legal services for the purpose of drafting a comprehensive and legally binding separation agreement, which will address matters such as the division of your assets, your parenting plan, child support, spousal support, conduct, and any other relevant matter arising from your separation.
  • Up to two (2) one-hour meetings with your Pathway Legal lawyer.
  • Your Pathway Legal lawyer will provide an overview of the law as it relates to you and your unique circumstances.
  • Your Pathway Legal lawyer will provide legal advice associated with your planned agreement, so you clearly understand your rights and responsibilities.
  • Your Pathway Legal Lawyer will prepare the agreement based on your instructions.
  • Your Pathway Legal Lawyer will communicate with opposing counsel or party, for up to 30 minutes. Your lawyer will make reasonable agreed-upon changes to the agreement in consultation with the other party, their lawyer, and you.
  • Your Pathway Legal lawyer (or support staff person) will attend with you to execute the agreement once finalized.
  • Your Pathway Legal lawyer will execute the Certificate of Independent Legal Advice appended to your agreement.

The same applies to all kinds of legal agreements that we draft as they relate to family law: 

  • Separation Agreements
  • Cohabitation Agreements
  • Marriage Agreements 
  • Prenuptial Agreements
  • Postnuptial Agreements

What is a prenuptial agreement and what is a postnuptial agreement

Papers depicting a marriage proposal or poem with a wedding ring placed on top.

Even though we can be fixed fee divorce lawyers, that is people come to us when they are getting divorced at the end of their marriage, some people want a legal agreement before marriage. People might do this because they have already experienced the sting of separation in their past and don’t want to repeat the financial consequences they may have experienced after their previous relationship failed. 

Folks want to ensure that if they end up getting divorced, their assets are protected. This is why they will get a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement is a pre-marriage financial agreement. 

At Pathway Legal, we charge the same fees for all of our agreements. So, as you can see above, the fixed fee is as above. 

Sometimes people ask us: “what is a postnuptial agreement"? Essentially, this is a prenuptial agreement after marriage. Like a prenuptial agreement, it is a financial agreement, except the timing is different in that it gets entered into after people get married and not before. 

In these circumstances, folks either did not get their prenuptial agreement signed before they got married or are having some challenges in their marriage and are unsure if it will last. 

Such folks want to ensure that if they are heading to separation and ending their marriage, they want to have a friendly divorce instead of a high conflict divorce.

An easy way to get to an amicable divorce process is by having a postnuptial agreement that clarifies your divorce's financial implications.

This way, even if people are concerned about their marriage, they are more likely to continue trying to work out the bumps in their relationship rather than simply cutting their losses. They want to ensure that if they stick it out and end up getting divorced later on, they will enjoy the same benefits of a pre-marriage financial agreement. That is, they have a prenuptial agreement after marriage.

What is a postnuptial agreement? Meet Patrick

Father and daughter sitting by the docks

Our client, Patrick, was financially very well off. Even though he was still in his early 30s and self-made, there was no question that he had a high net worth. He married young and he and his wife had significant assets. He also earned significant income and was very concerned that if he and his wife separated, he would have significant child support to pay even if he and his wife shared care of their children. He was right about that. When he asked us how does child support work and we explained to him that it was based upon his income, he was fearful. He feared for a good reason because his obligation would be very high. This fellow’s income ranged from as high as $800,000 to as low as $30,000 per year. Because he had such a broad-ranging income, he entered into a post-nuptial agreement that capped his income for child support purposes. His wife readily agreed to the post-nuptial agreement because she knew she was entitled to significant assets in the event of their separation. 

In this case, our client hoped things would work out between him and his wife, but he was worried that if he stayed in his marriage any longer, his obligations would only continue to mount. As a result, he asked his wife to enter into a postnuptial agreement which was essentially a prenuptial agreement after marriage. They divided their significant assets by agreement and agreed upon the support obligation in the event of their divorce or separation. Eventually, these parties did separate, but when they did, they headed straight for a friendly divorce. It is several years later and Patrick and his ex-spouse are the flagship of what a friendly divorce can look like. Although there are some bumps in the road, they get along well and both keep the best interests of their children as their main priority. Just recently, Patrick has retained us to move to the next step, that is, him obtaining a flat fee divorce.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is like a prenuptial agreement, except it applies whether or not you get married. Another way of describing it is that it is a common law marriage agreement, that is, it is an agreement you enter, without having to be married. 

Because of the BC Family Law Act, many people are unaware that they may have significant financial obligations to the person they live with. Unbeknownst to them, they create obligations for themselves without having taken the step of getting married!

Your cohabitation agreement lawyer will tell you that having clarity of agreement in the event of the breakdown of your relationship (because let’s face it, a lot of relationships do break down), will reduce a lot of emotional and financial turmoil in your life.

A cohabitation property agreement ensures that you and your partner will know your obligations, entitlements and responsibilities in the event of your breakup.

This is particularly important for people who may be entering a relationship in later years after they have amassed a wealth of their own. 

A common law marriage agreement, or cohabitation agreement, must be entered into before you have been living together for two years. After you have been living in a marriage-like relationship for two years or more, then the BC Family Law Act applies and you face property division regardless of whose name the property is registered in. This is why we highly recommend that if this is you, you speak to a cohabitation agreement lawyer and that you do it well before the “two-year” mark. This might be a difficult conversation to have with your partner, however, we always say that if your partner refuses to have the conversation or enter into such an agreement, and it ends up breaking you up, you dodged a bullet.

Flat fee divorce costs for supreme court matters

Top-down view of a wooden gavel on a white marble table

Flat fee divorce costs for Supreme Court matters are often consistent across many matters. At Pathway Legal, in 2023, our flat fee for an uncontested divorce goes like this:

$3,070.50, which includes legal fees, disbursements and taxes: 

Your Pathway Legal lawyer will draft and file the following required court documents in a manner acceptable to the Supreme Court of British Columbia:

  • Notice of Family Claim 
  • Affidavit of Personal Service 
  • Desk Order Divorce Affidavit 
  • Child Support Affidavit (if required) 
  • Registrar’s Certificate of Pleadings 
  • Requisition for Filing the Divorce Order 
  • Draft of Divorce Order (the document the judge eventually signs and becomes the order)

Your Pathway Legal lawyer will provide legal services in a competent manner that will see your order for divorce finalized.

You will  have up to a one-hour meeting with your lawyer to assist in drafting Notice of Family Claim. Your lawyer will fill out the necessary divorce registration form as the Canadian government requires. Pathway Legal will arrange for personal service of the necessary document. Then Pathway Legal will prepare and file all necessary court documents for filing based upon the latest updated practice directions and form requirements of the court. We will attend with you for your signature on all the required forms and affidavits.

Here is how we breakdown the fee of $3,070.50:

  • Legal fees: $2,200
  • Divorce Mate software fee: $95                                                                                
  • Cloud (encrypted and secure) storage and administration fee: $95
  • Court filing fee – charged by Province of BC: $200
  • Agency fees and/or online filing portal (Court Services Online): $25 (Most of the time, we prefer to file documents online using Court Services Online which costs $7 per submission. Sometimes, we have to do the old-fashioned system of utilizing court agents. These are people that we have worked with for almost 30 years. They stand in line at the courthouse and file documents, so you don’t have to pay your lawyer or our support staff to stand in line at the courthouse. It is a win/win for everyone.)
  • Service of documents via process server: $150
  • Printing, scanning, photocopying: $20
  • GST on legal fees: $125
  • PST on legal fees: $175
  • GST on disbursements: $10.50
  • All inclusive flat fee with disbursements and taxes: $3,070.50

Of course, if your matter gets complicated, in that your ex does not cooperate with service and your lawyer has to make an application for substitutional service of the court documents on your spouse, then there are additional fees for your lawyer’s hourly time.

Family court divorce filing fee

In the fees outlined above, you will see the family court divorce filing fee of $200. If we use BC Online to file documents, it is $7 per submission. Because we are always transparent about our billing practices at Pathway Legal and our client’s trust in us is paramount. 

Although we can’t avoid the expense of the family court divorce filing fee, we do try to save disbursements (also known as out-of-pocket expenses), in other ways for your matter. For example, if your ex is cooperative, they can come to our office in Victoria, B.C. to be served rather than us hiring a process server. These savings are passed on to you.

Filing a separation agreement

man completing document

Filing a separation agreement with the court is not always required. With or without filing it (assuming you had a lawyer draft it and you obtained independent legal advice), your separation agreement is a legally binding document with the same effect as a court order. Yet, once you file it with the court it is now deemed to be a court order. 

Sometimes, you must file a separation agreement with the court because you want to enforce your agreement. For example, you might wish to have your agreement have the full force of a court order because you wish to enroll with the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (also known as “FMEP”). FMEP is a free service by the BC Ministry of Attorney General helping families and children entitled to support under a maintenance order or agreement. Your flat fee divorce costs cover the legal service for filing this document for you. 

A separation and property settlement agreement guides and directs you to understand your rights and responsibilities clearly. Filing a separation agreement depends upon your circumstances and is not always necessary.

Can you divorce without separation agreement?

We are asked this question a lot. Can you divorce without a separation agreement? Well, yes you can, however, remember when we said that a divorce is just that piece of paper signed off by a judge that says you are no longer married? Most of the time, people need to do more than get divorced. This will be because they have kids or assets, and need clarity of agreement around parenting, support, and the division of assets and debt. 

Sometimes, however, people have no family assets, no kids, no debt, and no support obligations. In that case, they can divorce without a separation agreement.

What is an uncontested divorce?

woman going for a walk in nature

The history as to what is an uncontested divorce is, well, interesting, at least as far as the law goes. It was in the late 1960s that it became possible to get divorced without it being anybody’s “fault.” Since the late 1960s, in Canada, you can get divorced because you are no longer together for a year or more. 

Prior to the 1960s, Canada’s divorce laws were governed by the Divorce Act of 1867! Let’s just say they were rather archaic. The Divorce Act of 1867 was based on English law. In English law in order for someone to get divorced, they had to prove that there were matrimonial offences such as adultery or cruelty. 

So, before 1968 in Canada you had to prove there was adultery or cruelty. However, when the laws were modernized the concept of the no-fault divorce or uncontested divorce materialized. This made divorce more accessible for many more people who wanted a divorce, but did not have to go through the expense of “proving” that it was somebody’s fault. 

The no fault divorce cost is substantially lower than a contested divorce. The introduction of the no-fault uncontested divorce was a welcome and significant departure from the previously outdated, old-fashioned and draconian English law that heavily emphasized assigning blame to one of the spouses. The modern no-fault system which allowed for what is an uncontested divorce as we all know it, reduced the adversarial and combative nature of getting divorced. In BC, family law lawyers can therefore guide our clients to a friendly divorce. There is no need for one party to be found at fault. 

In BC, family law lawyers can therefore guide our clients to a friendly divorce.

There is no need for one party to be found at fault.

There is a general trend in our law, of course, is to promote the resolution of family law matters through negotiation, mediation, and other methods of ADR alternative dispute resolution rather than it being a requirement to assign blame. This is good news because divorce has become less adversarial and benefits the entire (changing) family.

Summary of flat fee divorce

When you anticipate that your divorce will be uncontested, a flat fee divorce will likely suit you and your circumstances. Chat with one of the Pathway Legal lawyers, we will take a look at your circumstances.