How Much Does Divorce Cost -
What is the Average Cost of Divorce in BC

The question of how much does divorce cost is often foremost when you are thinking about getting divorced.

The cost of a divorce lawyer is a question people often want to know about but you will likely not like this answer! Nobody wants to hear that the cost for a divorce lawyer depends. The average cost of divorce depends upon you and your case.

Before we dive into the average cost of divorce, there is an important distinction to remember.

Hands of husband and wife on divorce document with wedding rings and a pen in the center

First of all, a “Divorce” is a piece of paper, an order from the court that says you are no longer married to someone. If you want this, you can certainly take advantage of a fixed fee divorce.

If you meet with your family law lawyer, they might offer a flat fee divorce structure. 

However, when people wonder about divorce, they are thinking about separating from their partner (even if they are not married to them) and wondering how to divide their assets, come up with a parenting plan for their kids, and whether or not child or spousal support will be payable. 

The cost of divorce in BC varies significantly and depends upon various factors. Like we said, do you want the court order that says you are no longer married to someone, or do you want to have an agreement (and sometimes court order) that outlines your financial separation and other matters that you have to deal with when separating from your partner.

On top of everything else, it depends upon the family lawyer cost per hour:

A lot of people hire their lawyer based on the hourly cost per hour. Believe it or not, a family lawyer cost per hour, when low, will not necessarily save you money.

For example if you are a high net worth individual, and hire a family law lawyer with a low hourly rate, they might not have the experience or skills to deal with your unique situation

Also, sometimes, a higher family lawyer cost per hour will save your resources because the lawyer has systems, support staff, and other time-saving and cost-saving ways of resolving your matter. For example, as family law lawyers in BC, at Pathway Legal, we do not have our lawyers prepare financial statements for our clients. Instead, we have our support staff and designated paralegal help with that task. You do not need to invest in the cost of a divorce lawyer to help you fill out your financial statement when a support staff person can do the job and do it very well. This ultimately saves our clients significant sums on legal fees. 

The cost of divorce will include many elements such as the willingness of your partner to cooperate in the process and whether they are open and willing to use alternative dispute resolution, like mediation to resolve your matter. As well it also depends on the complexity of your matter.

How much are divorce lawyers - average cost of divorce lawyer

At Pathway Legal, we offer a Flat Fee Structure in many instances. If you want a flat fee divorce, you will see it is possible depending on your circumstances. A word of warning though, a flat fee divorce is a fit for some folks but not others. A flat fee structure is a win-win for you, the client, and your lawyer because you get to know exactly how much your case will cost from the outset. For the lawyer, it is beneficial because they can leverage their expertise and efficiencies in such a way that helps your case. For you, you know how much it is going to cost at the outset.

At Pathway Legal, we offer services as fixed fee divorce lawyers for the following matters:

  • Drafting your legally binding agreement:  Separation Agreement, Cohabitation Agreement, Marriage Agreement, Prenuptial Agreement
  • Your Uncontested Divorce (for those who want a fixed fee 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

For example, let’s say that you and your partner are not married, but want to take your relationship to the next level and move towards marriage. At the same time, you have been married before and do not want to have to divide your assets, should your relationship go sideways for any reason. That is why a lot of people come to us looking for a marriage agreement. Other times, people are not even sure if they want to marry, but they want to protect their assets in the event of separation. 

Divorce lawyer payment plan

At Pathway Legal we do not want to be your banker. That is why we do not offer a divorce lawyer payment plan. However, we want to help you with your family law matter.  We do, however, offer the next best thing to become your bank. That is, we offer you the ability to pay your legal fees using your credit card. We take both Visa and Mastercard payments. 

Often what happens is that people who are going through a separation do not have a lot of cash available. Yet, once their matter is settled, they will have access to funds that will pay off any debt they have accumulated, including debt they have added to their credit card for legal fees.

We were thinking of a client we have right now who we will call Liz. Liz has a couple of pieces of property worth over $2,000,000. She has almost no debt other than a mortgage of about $200,000 on one property. In her case, her ex-spouse is very difficult and we have not yet gotten him to an alternative dispute resolution process, like mediation. Meanwhile, her safety has been an issue because he is volatile and they live on the same acreage. Rather than live in a state of continued turmoil and stress, Liz utilized her credit cards to pay her legal fees. She sees that as an investment in her future and we agree. 

In short, she can sell her properties with or without her ex-spouse’s agreement and get on with her future. She has utilized her credit card for this important purpose.

How expensive is divorce

How expensive is divorce, in your case, depends a lot upon how complex your case is, and how much you and your ex-spouse get along. It also depends on whether you have chosen the right divorce lawyer. The more you and your ex-spouse can engage in friendly divorce measures that include alternative dispute resolution (ADR), the better. You can get a lot more done in a day of mediation than you can get resolved in many days of trial. It is almost always worth it to engage in an ADR process.

You can get a lot more done in a day of mediation than you can get resolved in many days of trial.

It is almost always worth it to engage in an ADR process.

When considering how expensive divorce is in British Columbia, it is the easiest way to save your hard-earned resources. 

At the same time, if it is just a divorce you are looking for, meaning that you want the piece of paper from the court that says you are no longer married to your spouse, then you will want to consider hiring a lawyer who will do a flat fee divorce for you. Flat-fee divorce is something our clients love because they will know with certainty how much does divorce cost for them and their family. They are not worried about the family lawyer cost per hour because they know right up front how much they will be paying.

No fault divorce cost and uncontested divorce cost

Fixed fee divorce is when people simply need to hire their uncontested divorce lawyer and get their divorce done. Again, this is when people are simply looking for that divorce order from the court that says they are no longer married to their spouse. 

If separating couples want to negotiate their parenting plan, division of assets, or support entitlement and obligations, they will likely need a lot more than a simple no fault divorce order. In such cases you will need to think about the cost of a divorce lawyer because the family lawyer cost per hour will mostly apply in such instances. 

However, if it is just the divorce you are looking for, your uncontested divorce lawyer can lay out the cost of your flat fee divorce.

In most cases, separation agreements include that one or either party may apply for a divorce order and the other party agrees to cooperate in the uncontested divorce process. Uncontested divorce fees, particularly when the other party cooperates, is the way to keep your cost of divorce as low as possible.

Who pays the divorce fees?

Remembering that your “divorce” is the court order that says you are no longer married, when it comes to who pays for them, it is usually by agreement. 

man completing document

There are cases, however, when someone has not been able to have a friendly divorce and have ended up in the courtroom. In such cases, sometimes the court will award that one party pay a portion of the other party’s legal costs. Essentially, the Supreme Court of British Columbia might order that the party who was unsuccessful in the legal dispute may be required to pay the successful party's costs. Why? It is to encourage parties to resolve their matters, especially by using alternative dispute resolution methods outside of court and to deter frivolous court actions. 

At Pathway Legal, our family law lawyers have seen circumstances when who pays for divorce is the party that brought a claim or initiated a legal proceeding that they should not have. For example, it could have been avoided if they started a high-conflict custody battle. In other cases, a party ignored a reasonable separation and property settlement agreement offer and engaged in legal proceedings instead. Sometimes when someone fails to comply with the terms of an order or separation agreement, they will be the one who pays the divorce fees.

Annulment vs divorce cost

What is an annulment vs. divorce? 

In our almost 30 years of practising law, we have never encountered or dealt with a case where someone obtained an annulment of their marriage. It is a very unusual remedy. Even if people have lousy marriages right from the start, they are most often not annulled. 

So, you might ask, what is an annulment? It is when a marriage ends up being null and void. The law says that the marriage never existed in the first place. 

Unlike the no fault divorce cost which can be a relatively small investment, an annulment requires an application to the court with detailed evidence. In the trial of the matter, the party seeking the annulment will have to prove that at least one of the following occurred:

  1. Their spouse was legally married to someone else; 
  2. A party lacked the capacity to get married. Perhaps they lacked the mental capacity, were intoxicated, or were underage. 
  3. Their marriage was never consummated (they never had sexual intercourse). 
  4. There was deceit, misrepresentation or fraud, such as the person not disclosing their true identity. 
  5. The marriage was entered into under duress thus making genuine consent impossible. 
  6. The parties were too closely related by blood (incest - ew, we know). 

An annulment v. divorce cost is much more substantial, however, if successful, the marriage gets “back-dated” in that it means it never happened in the first place in the eyes of the law.

Family lawyer cost per hour

When hiring a family law lawyer in BC, one of the largest considerations is the family lawyer cost per hour, or hourly rate. Sometimes people hire lawyers with a low hourly rate thinking that will save them money. Sometimes it does, and often it does not. 

Lawyers who work for themselves set their hourly rates. These are determined based upon the lawyer's skill and years of experience.  Lawyers who work for law firms often have their family lawyer cost per hour set by their law firm’s management. 

If you are looking for a family law lawyer we suggest that you not take choosing the right divorce lawyer for your matter lightly. 

At least in 2023, the cost of a divorce lawyer in BC ranged from
$200 to $600 per hour.

This depends on the lawyer’s reputation, years of experience, the overhead and structure of the law firm, and the complexity of your case. 

One thing to remember is that even if the cost of a divorce lawyer in BC is lower than another lawyer, if that lawyer has not support staff, you may end up paying more for your divorce despite the family lawyer cost per hour being lower. This is because of how the firm is structured. 

For example, if a lawyer is a sole practitioner and does not have support staff, their family lawyer cost per hour will be lower than another firm, but it means that they will be scanning documents, photocopying, file opening, and other tasks themselves. They will also be preparing lists of documents, helping you with your financial statement, and helping you gather your documents. This can be expensive if they charge you their hourly rate for those tasks rather than utilizing a lower-cost designated paralegal or legal assistant.

Child Custody Lawyer Cost

Because getting custody of a child can be a lengthy, stressful and time-consuming process, usually this is done using a lawyer based upon the family lawyer cost per hour model as opposed to a fixed fee. 

Average cost of divorce mediation

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

The most frequently asked questions are:

  • What is the average cost of divorce mediation? 
  • Is mediation cheaper than divorce?
  • Who pays for divorce mediation?

Compared to going to court and ending up in a trial, divorce mediation tends to cost a fraction of the cost. Alternative forms of dispute mediation include mediation, mediation/arbitration, four-way meetings, and direct negotiation between lawyers and parties.

In our experience, a high conflict divorce in a trial situation almost always results in almost nobody being the winner. This is because of the high financial and emotional cost. For example, do you think parents who end up in a high conflict custody battle will ever be friends or be able to forgive each other for what happened at their trial? 

And when you look at divorce mediation, although you will have to pay the cost of the mediator (most often sharing the cost with your ex-spouse), you still save a lot of time and money. 

For example a 10-day trial can cost in excess of $100,000 whereas a divorce mediation will almost always cost less than $20,000 and closer to $10,000.This includes your half of the mediator, the cost of your family law lawyer, disbursements, and taxes. 

Divorce mediation is the way to go when possible.

Divorce arbitration cost

Mediation/arbitration, or med/arb is a form of alternative dispute resolution ADR. It is commonly used throughout British Columbia and is a powerful and efficient way to resolve your family law matter, even if it is a high-conflict matter. 

Instead of having your matter resolved in front of a judge, you first try to mediate the matter (arrive at a fully comprehensive legally binding agreement), but then if you are unable to make it all the way there, you have already authorized your mediator to arbitrate the issue. This means that your mediator becomes your private judge. 

Again, the only place you can get a court order that says you are formally divorced is by way of an order of the court, but when thinking of divorce arbitration, really you are saying that you want to avoid the courthouse and try to resolve your matter outside of the court system.

The average cost of mediation tends to be less than a divorce arbitration cost (because you have settled by agreement and your lawyers have not had to prepare evidence and legal argument), mediation/arbitration is still, in our view, much quicker, better, faster, cheaper, and less emotionally taxing than litigation.

Average cost of a legal separation

Close-up shot of two figurines arranged on a small stack of coins

If you are thinking about getting divorced and wondering about the average cost of a legal separation, you probably really want to know what it will take to get a final agreement or court order that will finalize your parenting plan, your division of assets, and support obligations or entitlements. 

Having dealt with many families who have separated in BC, we find that the average cost of a legal separation and getting to the place of a legally binding separation agreement will depend upon many factors. Those factors include whether or not you and your ex-spouse are looking for a friendly divorce or if one of you is determined to be in high conflict. It also depends on whether or not you need to negotiate a parenting plan, and the overall complexity of your matter. 

In our experience, for families in BC the average cost of a legal separation can range between $3,000 to in excess of $100,000. It is unusual in our experience, to see the high-end of that number because most people settle for closer to the under $10,000 to $15,000 range than the higher numbers.

Summary of how much divorce costs

The fact is clear. How much does divorce cost depends upon the complexity of your case, how amicable you and your ex-spouse are, and the kind of lawyer you hire.