When individuals consider divorce, the main focus is generally centered around child support and maintenance (i.e. alimony/spousal support). What many individuals do not consider when filing for divorce are the costs related to the actual divorce such as filing fees, fees for solicitors and barristers, fees for experts and other cost considerations such as trial.
In this article, we will dive deeper into some of the “hidden” fees you will need to consider when you are planning your divorce case.
- Court Fees: When you file a Divorce Petition, the court has mandated filing fees for the filing of your papers. If you have hired a solicitor to take care of all the paperwork and filing of your Divorce Petition, these filing fees and the fees incurred for clerks at your solicitor office to travel to/from the courthouse to file such paperwork will be included in your monthly bill. You should speak to your solicitor about the court fees so you are aware of what it costs to file your paperwork. You should also be informed of the hourly rate charged by your solicitor’s clerks to travel to/from the courthouse to file paperwork and also to serve papers to your ex-spouse’s solicitors.
- Solicitor and Barrister Fees: If you have hired a solicitor, your solicitor will be charging you for the work done on your case. The hourly rates are generally outlined in your solicitor’s retainer agreement. This retainer agreement should be read carefully as it will list out the terms of your agreement with your solicitor. If you do not understand the agreement, you should ask questions so that you are fully aware of the terms before you sign the agreement. In addition to the fees incurred by you for your solicitor, you may also need to hire a barrister for your case if you proceed to a hearing and/or trial. Generally speaking, a barrister is hired by your solicitor firm. Therefore, your barrister will bill your solicitor firm but these fees are then charged to you in your monthly bill. You should have a discussion with your solicitor before a barrister is hired on your case, so that you are aware of your barrister’s fees and what you will owe for their work on your matter.
- Fees for Experts: In the more complex divorce cases, you will need to hire experts. Experts can be hired for various reasons including valuations for real property, businesses and valuable items such as art and jewelry. Experts may also be hired for tax issues or issues related to trusts. Experts may also be called upon for child custody cases where a psychological evaluation of the children are needed. Another example of a third-party “expert” may be a parent-coordinator who assists you and your spouse with child custody issues. If your case requires an expert, there will be costs associated with the hiring of these experts. Generally speaking, both parties would be required share the costs of the hired experts unless an agreement is reached otherwise. Similar to barrister fees, the experts are hired by your solicitor firm. Therefore, your experts will bill your solicitor firm but these fees are then charged to you in your monthly bill. Before you agree to retaining an expert for your case, it is important that you speak to your solicitor about the fees associated with the expert so you have full transparency about what you will owe for these third-party costs.
- Fees for Hearings/Trial: When you are going through a divorce, there will be many hearings leading up to a trial. For example, any time you or your spouse file an application, a hearing will be set by the court. In addition to these hearings, as you go through the divorce process there may be other mandated hearings that you have to attend such as a children’s dispute resolution hearing or a financial dispute resolution hearing. If your case is set to go to trial, you will also generally be required to attend a pre-trial review hearing in preparation for trial. Trial itself can last several days depending on the complexity of your case. It is therefore important to discuss these anticipated costs with your solicitor so you know how much it will cost you depending on what route you will take. Many times, individuals will come to the conclusion that it is much more cost-effective to compromise on key issues and come to an agreement with their spouse rather than move forward with hearing after hearing and then ultimately a trial as hearings and trial is extremely expensive. If you move forward with a trial, there will be high costs not only for your team of solicitors but also the barrister(s) and experts involved in your case. For many litigious and complex cases heading to trial, your legal team can consist of 5 to 10 individuals who many times, all charge on an hourly basis.
- Other Miscellaneous Fees: In addition to the above-fees, you should also discuss with your solicitor whether there are other “hidden” fees you might not be aware of. For example, you will be charged by your solicitor firm for photocopying, faxes, and service of documents. Ask for transparency when you hire a solicitor so you are aware of all the fees that you will be charged each month. Most of this is outlined in your retainer agreement so again, it is important for you to read the entire retainer agreement before signing the document. It is also important that when you receive your monthly bill, you read through the bill rather than gloss over it. If you have questions about your bill, speak to your solicitor so you can clarify what the charges are for.
It is important that you take charge of your finances during a divorce and this includes the fees and costs that you will be responsible for in your divorce. It is therefore imperative that you have full transparency of what you are being charged and what the anticipated costs are. Do not be afraid to speak to your solicitor about costs as this may determine the course of your divorce. If you are looking to resolve matters quickly without additional costs, it may be a good idea to work on a settlement with your spouse without the need for court litigation. Mediation is a wonderful alternative to court litigation and should be considered!