No one plans to get divorced, but unfortunately, it’s just a reality for many couples. According to the Vanier Institute, four in 10 marriages will end in divorce and some divorce lawyers have put that number even higher in light of the pandemic, citing a record 68% increase in inquiries between January 3rd and 7th of 2022, the period of the year when divorce lawyers receive the most inquiries.
It’s no secret that COVID has been hard on marriages in Canada, with repeated lockdowns placing unprecedented stress on families. Unfortunately, on top of the emotional burden of undergoing a divorce, there’s also a significant financial one too. Between legal fees and child support, individuals could find themselves paying thousands of dollars just to cover the process of uncoupling.
The cost of divorce in Canada
The financial impact of getting divorced in Canada is a bit like death by a thousand cuts. The fees trickle in bit by bit, and before you know it, you’ve paid thousands of dollars. But remember that every divorce is different, so fees that may apply to one divorce, may not apply to yours.
But with that disclaimer out of the way, we’ve done our best to quantify all of the costs you might encounter during the divorce cost, starting with legal fees.
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Legal fees are the fees that you’ll typically pay to your lawyer for the drafting of various documents, along with disbursements, which are additional fees relating to filing your divorce documents. These fees will cover creating copies of your legal documents, serving your spouse, and more. The money you pay your lawyer will be divided up into the following sections:
Cost: $1,500 – $2,000
Most people assume that preparing the divorce order is the most important part of a lawyer’s job, but in reality, the separation agreement is most essential to the divorce proceedings. The separation agreement outlines how your jointly-held property—that is, your home, financial assets and debts—is divided between you.
The cost of drafting a separation agreement will depend on the complexity of your divorce, but will typically cost between $1,500 and $2,000 per person. In the case of a separation agreement, one spouse’s lawyer will draft the document, and the other spouse’s lawyer will review it.
Child custody and support agreement
Cost: $1,500 – $2,000
If there are children involved, your lawyer will need to draft an additional agreement outlining the child custody and support arrangement. These agreements are typically drafted based on legal precedent but can be modified to suit the situation.
Cost: $600 – $1,000
If, after living separately for one year, both parties agree to a divorce, your divorce lawyer may draft and file a request for an uncontested divorce. This is a simple divorce proceeding that does not require court appearances and uses the previously drafted separation and child custody agreements as the basis for the divorce.
Cost: $7,500 – $12,500
If, however, your spouse does not agree to a divorce, the costs will almost certainly go up. The good news is that you won’t be forced to stay married to them. Instead, you can petition the court for a divorce after one year of living separately. This is called a contested divorce and is usually significantly more expensive, because it may include extensive negotiations between each party’s lawyers regarding the division of property, child support, and spousal support.
Cost: $13,000 – $26,000
If you and your spouse cannot agree on any of the above matters, you may opt to go to court and have a judge decide. Naturally, the cost of these court appearances will run up your tab even further.
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While the legal fees outlined above may seem staggering, they are just the fees you would pay a lawyer for your divorce. Depending on your situation, you may also be required to pay a host of other fees, including:
Cost: $200 – $600
In addition to paying your lawyer to prepare the legal documents, you’ll need to pay the courts to file your application for divorce. This fee ranges from $200 to $600, depending on your province of residence. Generally, your lawyer will handle this task on your behalf and charge you as part of their fees.
Affidavit of service
Cost: $40 – $200
If you need to serve your spouse with divorce papers, you’ll need to pay a bailiff to do so. The cost for this service is usually regulated by your province of residence and depends on how far the bailiff must travel, and how many tries it takes. Generally, your lawyer will handle this process on your behalf and charge you as part of their fees.
Cost: $300 – $400
If you and your spouse own property together, you may need it to be appraised to determine the fair market value. With that information, one spouse can buy out the other’s share in the property. There are appraisers who specialize in divorce appraisals, which require the appraiser to assess the value of the home on the date of separation, not the current date.
Short-term costs after divorce
Once your divorce has been finalized by the courts, you might think that the financial burden has been lifted. Unfortunately, once your divorce is finalized, it’s time to start separating your financial life from your spouse’s, which can be expensive. Here are some of the costs that you may undertake once your divorce is finalized.
Refinance your mortgage
If you are keeping ownership of the family home, you’ll need to refinance your mortgage in your name only, and remove your spouse from the title of the property. The cost to apply for a mortgage refinance and the legal fees associated with updating your mortgage title represent part of the cost. You may also be penalized if you need to break your mortgage before the end of its term. This penalty could be in the thousands of dollars, but it depends on your unique financial situation.
Splitting jointly held assets
Your spouse is entitled to half of the jointly held financial assets. Joint assets include property equity, assets like cars or recreation vehicles, and even pensions. Once you are divorced, you and your spouse will go through the steps of splitting your jointly held assets, which usually involve one spouse making equalization payments. For example, you may need to liquidate part of your RRSP to give to your spouse, or they may pay you a lump sum if they plan to maintain ownership in the family home.
Changing your name
Cost: $0 – $300
If you took your spouse’s name during the divorce process, you may choose to revert to your maiden name. This is not a legal process, and you don’t have to apply for an official name change with vital statistics. Instead, you’ll need to simply notify the relevant organizations that you want to change your name. Depending on the organization, you may be required to provide a copy of your marriage license, divorce order, or a signed separation agreement. Sometimes you’ll need to pay a fee. For example, if you want to change your passport, you’ll need to apply for a completely new passport, and pay the associated fees.
Cost: $1,500 – $30,000
The process of divorce involves a great deal of asset separation. You’ll need to separate finances, divvy up your vehicles, and even separate furniture and personal effects. Once the process is over, you’ll find there is a lot that needs to be replaced. Fortunately, you don’t need to replace everything immediately. While some assets, like a vehicle, may need to be replaced quickly, others, like furniture, can wait
Ongoing costs after divorce
As you’ve read up to this point, leaving a marriage can be a costly procedure. But depending on your situation, you could be paying for it for a long time. Here are some long-term costs that you may need to plan for, especially if you have children or unequal financial backgrounds.
If you are required to pay spousal support, your commitment to these payments could last years. Most provinces offer handy calculators that help you determine a ballpark amount for spousal support, but this can be negotiated with your spouse in advance.
If you have dependents, you may need to pay your spouse a fee each month to support the costs associated with their upkeep. The amount of child support that you’ll need to pay depends on your custody arrangement and will be organized during the divorce process.
Finally, divorce is a traumatic experience. Some experts liken it to the process of losing a loved one. Many find that recovery from a divorce can take years and that attending individual therapy can speed up the healing process.
The cost of divorce in Canada is tough to quantify
Asking how much it costs to get divorced in Canada is similar to asking how much it costs to buy a home in Canada. The answer is that it depends on a variety of factors, and no two divorces are exactly the same.
However, there are some aspects of a divorce that we can get firm numbers on, and we’ve shared those above. Based on our research, here is the average cost to get divorced in Canada:
- As little as $3,600 for the legal fees related to an uncontested divorce.
- If your divorce is contested, those fees could rise to as much as $43,500 for court hearings and negotiations.
- You’ll also pay third-party fees. These fees can range from $540 to $1,200.
- Once your divorce is finalized, you’ll pay between $2,500 and $31,300 to tie up loose ends.
- Finally, you may need to pay child or spousal support, which can cost thousands per month.
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