What Is the Cost of a Divorce in Canada?

By Arthur Dubois | Published on 29 Sep 2023

A man and woman standing face to face, displaying depression and anxiety between them

Going through a divorce can drain you emotionally and financially. By understanding the costs involved, you can decide what to fight for and what to do yourself. In Canada, divorce costs can vary from $1,000 to $25,000 and up, depending on several factors. Let’s explore the basics cost of divorce in Canada, the factors influencing them and ways to reduce them.

Understanding the Basics of Divorce Costs

Divorce can create a complex and emotionally challenging process, as it often comes with significant financial implications. The Canadian Divorce Act sets three grounds for filing a divorce: separation, adultery and abuse or cruelty.  

In each case, the more complex the issues behind the breakup, the more it costs to go your separate ways. So, let’s explore some of the key expenses associated with divorce.

Naturally, legal fees eat up most of the expenses in a divorce. Hiring a competent and experienced divorce lawyer helps navigate the intricate legal process and protects your rights. Lawyers typically charge based on their hourly rates, which can vary significantly depending on their location, expertise and reputation. Hourly rates can range from $180 to $700 or more, depending on the complexity of the case.

In addition to legal fees, couples must pay court costs and filing fees. These fees can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific requirements of your case. Begin by consulting with your lawyer to understand the potential court cost of divorce in Canada then budget accordingly.

Division of Assets and Debts

When going through a divorce, consider the division of assets and debts. This process involves splitting up property, investments, and debts accumulated during the marriage. It can become a complex and time-consuming task, especially if there are significant assets or disputes over ownership.

The legal fee to draft a division of property/assets agreement costs between $1,801 and $2,800 in 2019. This document clarifies who gets what to accelerate the process.

In some cases, appraisals and valuations may determine the fair market value of certain assets. These additional expenses can add up, as professional appraisers assess the value of real estate, businesses, or other valuable assets

Furthermore, if you need to sell or transfer certain assets, brace for additional fees associated with these transactions. For example, real estate transactions often involve closing costs, realtor commissions and other related expenses. A residential real estate sale alone costs $700 to $800 in lawyers’ fees on average

Seeking professional advice from a financial planner or a divorce attorney specializing in asset division. This can help you assess the financial implications and make informed decisions.

Child Support and Alimony Expenses

If you have children, child support becomes a significant cost in divorces. These payments provide financial support for the children’s well-being and cover expenses such as education, healthcare, and daily living costs. Determining child support payments involves various factors, including the income of both parents, the custody arrangement and the child’s needs.

During the divorce process, child custody evaluations may be necessary to determine the best interests of the child. These evaluations can involve additional expenses, such as fees for psychologists or other professionals involved in assessing the child’s needs and preferences. On average, a child psychologist charges $52 per hour.

Legal fees for negotiating child support agreements can inflate your overall divorce costs. Having a skilled attorney advocating for your child’s best interests in a reasonable agreement costs $1,500 to $2,500.

Additionally, in some cases, spousal support or alimony may create another financial obligation. Alimony means a payment made by one spouse to the other to provide financial support after the divorce. The amount and duration of alimony payments can vary widely. It depends on the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse and expected standards of living. Generally, a spousal support agreement will cost you between $800 and $2,400.

Since divorce has such a strong impact on your finances, some people may file for bankruptcy protection. However, while this process clears most debts, divorcees must still pay child support and alimony to their former partners.

Understanding the potential child support and alimony expenses aids in financial planning and the well-being of you and your children.

Factors Influencing the Cost of Divorce

Some divorces unfold quietly and with little drama. Meanwhile, others end up in protracted and visceral legal battles over assets and custody battles. You can set the tone for your parting by deciding what to fight for and what to let go. Let’s explore some of the key factors that can affect the cost of your divorce.

Complexity of the Case

The complexity of your case plays a crucial role in determining divorce costs. If your divorce involves numerous assets, businesses or investments, it will require more time and effort from your lawyer. In turn, it will result in higher fees. Dividing marital property can take a long time, especially when there are significant financial holdings or real estate involved. 

Additionally, if you and your ex-spouse have a high level of conflict, it may prolong the process and increase costs. Resolving issues related to child custody, visitation rights and spousal support can also contribute to the complexity of the case.

In a 2021 survey, an uncontested divorce cost $1,000 to $2,000 in legal fees. Meanwhile, a contested divorce cost couples $7,500 to $25,000 at that time. So, you must decide what you would pay to get your way.

When dealing with a complex divorce, a skilled and experienced attorney can navigate the intricacies of the legal system. Your lawyer will gather and analyze financial documents, consult with experts and develop a comprehensive strategy to protect your interests. All of these factors can contribute to the overall cost of your divorce.

Dispute Resolution Methods

The method you choose to resolve your divorce disputes can significantly impact the costs. Alternative dispute resolution methods, like mediation and arbitration, can help save money by avoiding extensive court battles. These processes involve the assistance of a neutral third party to help settle disagreements.

In mediation, you and your ex-spouse work toward mutually agreeable solutions. This approach reduces the need for lengthy court proceedings and gives you more control over the outcome. Mediators’ fees range from $150 to $700 per hour.

Arbitration, on the other hand, involves presenting your case to an arbitrator who will make a binding decision. This method can be less expensive than going to trial but still involves legal fees and other associated costs. Expect to pay this person $250 to $800 per hour or $1,000 to $2,000 per day. 

However, if you and your ex-spouse cannot reach a resolution through mediation or arbitration, litigation becomes necessary. Going to court can significantly increase the cost of your divorce. After all, it involves extensive preparation, court fees and potentially lengthy proceedings.

Ponder your options seriously before going this route. For example, a two-day divorce trial can cost $13,000 to $27,000, according to Canadian Lawyer’s 2019 Legal Fees Survey. For five days, the bill balloons to closer to $53,000. Further, you might have to pay your partner’s legal fees if you lose. Now, that would really hurt your finances.

Geographic Location

Where you live also influences divorce costs. Lawyers’ fees and court expenses can vary depending on your province or city. Generally, urban areas with a higher cost of living tend to have higher legal fees. Consider this factor when budgeting for your divorce.

Each province has its own schedule of fees when you file for divorce. Universally, everyone pays $10 to register with Justice Canada’s Central Register of Divorce Proceedings at the outset.

Province or TerritoryCourt Fees Related to a Divorce
British Columbia$200 filing fee, then $80 to file your final application and $40 for an optional Certificate of Divorce
Alberta$250 commencement fee
Saskatchewan$300 for a petition for a divorce
Manitoba$200 for a petition for divorce, the n$30 for a certificate
Ontario$214 filing fee, then $445 at the time of a divorce hearing
Quebec$112 to jointly apply for a divorce, $335 to introduce a suit, $167 to respond, apply for custody, support or a review
Newfoundland and Labrador$120 to apply for a divorce, $60 for a judgment or hearing and $20 for a certificate at the end
New Brunswick$100 to file for divorce, $20 to respond, plus fees of $1 to $10 for various administrative tasks ($159 total for all)
Nova Scotia$320.30 to file for divorce, $218.50 if filed jointly
Prince Edward Island$100 to petition for divorce and $50 for a response
Yukon$150 court filing fee and $15 for a certificate at the end
Nunavut$200 court filing fee and $15 for a certificate at the end
Northwest Territories$165 court filing fee and $15 for a certificate at the end

How to Prepare Financially for a Divorce

By taking proactive steps to prepare yourself financially, you can ensure a smoother transition into your new life. These key strategies can help you prepare:

Setting a Budget

As soon as you decide to pursue a divorce, create a realistic budget. Take into account your current income, expenses and any expected changes in financial circumstances. This will help you understand your financial position and plan for the costs associated with the divorce process. 

Next, consider not only your immediate needs but also your long-term financial goals. Think about your desired lifestyle post-divorce and factor in expenses such as housing, utilities, transportation, healthcare, and childcare. By having a clear understanding of your financial situation, you can decide about how to allocate your resources.

Consulting with a divorce lawyer early on eases your journey. They can provide guidance on the potential costs involved in your unique situation and suggest strategies to minimize stress. 

A divorce lawyer can also help you navigate complex financial matters, such as property division, spousal support, and child custody. They will help protect your rights and ensure that you receive a fair settlement. By seeking legal advice, you can avoid costly mistakes and achieve the best possible outcome.

Applying for a Divorce Loan

As you go through a divorce, you may find yourself in need of additional funds to cover legal fees, living expenses or other unexpected costs. In such situations, a divorce loan can provide a much-needed lifeline. 

A divorce loan offers a specialized financial instrument to help cover some of the expenses you encounter during the divorce process. These costs often include legal fees, court fees and mediation services. 

Generally, divorce loans can be classified into two primary categories. First, unsecured personal loans come with high-interest rates since you don’t have collateral. You can borrow a few thousand dollars or up to $50,000. Then, you repay it in monthly installments over terms ranging from six months or up to five years. 

Meanwhile, family law or settlement loans come from specialized legal lenders. These loans suit individuals who demonstrate to the lender that they expect to receive a financial settlement from their divorce proceedings. You can typically borrow more and repay it in a lump sum.

Protecting Your Financial Future

To safeguard your financial future, gather and review key financial documents during your divorce preparations. This includes updating your will and insurance then  reassessing your investment and retirement plans. Seeking advice from a financial planner can provide valuable insights.

Reviewing bank statements, tax returns and investment account statements will give you a complete picture of your assets and liabilities. This information will streamline the divorce process and account for all your assets so they get properly divided.

Reviewing and updating your will ensures that your assets get distributed according to your wishes. Divorce can bring significant changes to your life, so update your estate planning documents to reflect your new circumstances.

Additionally, divorce may require you to rejig your insurance needs. You may need to obtain new health insurance coverage or adjust your existing policies. Consult with an insurance professional to understand your options and make the necessary changes.

Finally, divorce can derail your investment and retirement plans. A financial planner can help you revise your investment strategy and provide guidance on retirement planning. That way, you stay on track to meet your long-term financial goals.

Ways to Reduce Divorce Costs

Divorce can throw your life into chaos. However, you can employ several strategies to minimize the financial burden. In addition to the traditional litigation route, you have alternative methods that can help reduce costs. These include mediation, arbitration, collaborative divorce and even a DIY approach.

Mediation and Arbitration

Mediation and arbitration offer cost-effective alternatives to litigation. During mediation, you and your ex-spouse work with a neutral mediator to negotiate the terms of the divorce settlement. This process encourages open communication and allows both parties to have a say in the outcome. 

By avoiding the courtroom, mediation often results in lower costs and a faster resolution. For example, typically, for less than $1,000, you can avoid stressful sleepless nights and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. In Quebec, the Province will pay up to five hours of mediation to avoid expensive and contentious court battles.

Arbitration, on the other hand, involves a third-party arbitrator who acts like a judge, making decisions on your behalf. This method can be particularly useful when you have complex legal issues involved. Similar to mediation, arbitration can help save money and time compared to traditional litigation. For $2,000 for a day or two or arbitration, you avoid ongoing legal bills that eat into future earnings.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce can help reduce costs and maintain control over the process. Each spouse hires a lawyer specially trained in collaborative law. The parties commit to resolving issues outside of court, advocating for their own interests while retaining a cooperative approach.

Collaborative divorce encourages honest communication between both parties and their respective legal teams. This approach can lead to creative solutions and a more amicable resolution. By avoiding the adversarial nature of litigation, couples can save money on court fees and legal expenses. In this case, lawyers charge $250 to $500 per hour but come to an agreement in fewer hours.

DIY Divorce

For couples with relatively amicable breakups and simple financial situations, a DIY divorce might serve as an appropriate option. It involves filling out the necessary legal forms yourself, without hiring lawyers. This can significantly reduce costs, as you won’t have to pay attorney fees.

In British Columbia, couples can end their unions within three to four months for $500. The Province provides do-it-yourself divorce guides to help residents go through the process smoothly. Other provinces and territories also offer resources for amicable divorces.

However, proceed with caution and seek guidance from professionals when necessary to protect your rights. While a DIY divorce can save money, it could have legal implications and potential pitfalls. Consulting with a family lawyer or seeking advice from a legal aid clinic can provide the necessary guidance to navigate the process successfully.

Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications