Estimated Court Costs in Family law

This post is designed to inform potential or existing family law litigants about the estimated legal fees involved with contested court proceedings. These are estimates only – costs will vary from firm to firm and from lawyer to lawyer.

Intake and Pleadings

Some firms will offer a free consultation – these consults are designed to bring potential clients in the door in the hope that they will retain the firm or lawyer offering the free consultation. While the notion of *free* consults is tempting, the first question that I would be asking is why the lawyer involved has enough free time to offer free consultations. Most of the top family lawyers in Ottawa are busy all day every day.

The cost of intake will vary depending on the stage of the proceeding. If no case has been started it should only take the lawyer an hour or two to get up to speed. If you are heading for trial in a week the intake stage could take between two and twenty hours of time – $500 to $5,000 in fees.

Drafting a family law application and/or answer provides the court with the necessary facts and advises as to what issues are in dispute. Pleadings typically take between three and ten hours to draft, dependant upon the level of complexity and the number of family law issues involved. Costs for pleadings should range between $500 and $5,000.

A reasonable figure to assume for intake and pleadings for a standard case is $2,000.

Case Conference

The first court appearance in a family law case is the case conference. A case conference is typically held before a “Master.” The two acting Masters in Ottawa are Master McLeod and Master Roger. Masters are similar to judges, only with more limited powers in terms of what orders they can make. A Master will typically only make orders at a case conference with respect to having the parties disclose documents to one another. They will provide the parties with a summary opinion on the matter before the courts and give them advice on how to resolve the conflict.

Family Law case conferences were introduced as a way of having the parties meet and get an opinion at an early stage, before legal fees are incurred. The hope is to have the family law cases settle at an early stage in the litigation process to get them out of the court systems and to save the litigants money.

In order to proceed to a case conference there are some documents that need to be prepared. These include a case conference brief and accompanying affidavit of service, and a confirmation form. The brief gives the Master a top down look at the case and outlines the orders that are being requested. The confirmation lets the court know that they parties are prepared to proceed and gives an indication of how much time will be spent.

The bulk of the legal fees incurred for a case conference stem from the preparation of the case conference brief and the amount of time spent in court. Drafting the brief will usually take a couple of hours. Court time can vary depending on how long the list is on that particular day. Lawyers and their clients must wait for their turn on the court docket before making their submissions to the Master. Court dates usually take a couple of hours as well.

A reasonable estimate of costs associated with preparation for and attendance at a case conference would be $2,500.

Interim Motions

Interim motions can become necessary if something needs to be resolved at an early stage in the proceeding. Some common examples; interim spousal support, child support, possession of the matrimonial home, access rights, or sale of the matrimonial home. The cost of preparing the notice of motion, affidavit, and factum is usually between $5,000 and $10,000. The court time is usually an additional three to five hours. A reasonable estimate is about $8,000.

Mediation

Mediation isn’t mandatory in family law, but it comes strongly recommended. Any family law lawyer worth his/her salt will shuttle the parties into mediation at some point during the process in order to facilitate settlement talks. A resolution that is consented to by both parties is always superior to one handed down by a third party. A typical day of mediation with counsel will cost about $2,000. This covers preparation time (mediators will ask for briefs in advance), attendance at the mediation and the mediator’s fees.

Settlement Conference

A settlement conference is the last step before the parties proceed to trial. Parties in the family law justice system are required to attend at a settlement conference prior to having their matter placed on a trial list. The settlement conference is always held before a judge. The judge will review the matter and provide an opinion from the bench on the merits of the case. Each judge has a slightly different manner in which they conduct a settlement conference with varying degrees of success.

Settlement conferences require briefs and are similar to case conference in terms of their costs. $2,500 to $5,000 is a reasonable figure to assume, with variance given to the number of remaining issues and how in depth counsel wish to go to encourage settlement.

Trial

For each day of trial, judges and lawyers expect to see two days of preparation. Each day of trial is a ten hour work day for most counsel. That’s $2,500 plus the $5,000 in prep time. The length of the trial will largely depend on the number of witnesses involved. Each witness will typically take a half day or a full day in testimony. The number of days in trial will greatly vary depending on how much evidence must be presented to the trial judge in order to have him/her make a decision. A five day trial would cost $37,500 plus HST and disbursements – about $45,000.

These cost estimates are general and will vary greatly between firms and lawyers, types of cases, and the litigants behaviour itself. There is one thing that is clear however; using lawyers and the justice system to resolve your conflicts will guarantee a result, but the costs are palpable. You have to weigh them into your decision making process at the outset and throughout the course of the conflict resolution process.

Damages for Personal Injury cases

Personal injury lawyers are experts at assessing the value of a personal injury file.  Personal injury lawyers in Ottawa are no different.  The value of the damages for someone who is catastrophically injured will differ greatly from someone who slips and falls at a grocery store.  Each quantum of damages rests on the unique facts that are associated with every personal injury case.  Assessing the damages on a personal injury file can help the personal injury lawyer to identify what gaps in information are present so that they can retain experts in order to fill those gaps.

Bryan Delaney has been practicing as a personal injury lawyer for ten years. He articled at McCarthy Rastin Kerr, a personal injury boutique law firm.

Here are some typical heads of damage for a personal injury file:

Generals:  General damages for pain and suffering.  There is a ceiling that was set by the Supreme Court of Canada, which, with inflation, is just under $400,000.  There is a deductible on general damages of $30,000 for those involved in motor vehicle accidents – that is, your general damages are reduced by $30,000.

Past loss of income:    If you had to miss work due to your injury you are entitled to recover the lost wages.

Past out of pocket expenses:    Keep your receipts in an envelope and organize them onto a spreadsheet if possible.  These include taxis, general medical devices, treatments, and miscellany.

Future loss of income/Loss of competitive advantage:  Typically an expert report will be produced to establish the range in this category.  If your injury will prevent you from earning as much as you have in the past you will be compensated for that.

Future care costs:  The cost of future treatments (ie. massage therapy, physiotherapy, psychotherapy) once the Accident benefits carrier drops out of the picture (typically two years post-accident)

Lawyers are up-to-date on the recent cases that establish the boundaries and definitions for these various heads of damage and can give you advise to help you decide what level of compensation is fair and reasonable.If you have been injured you should consult with a personal injury lawyer.  It’s free – start by completing the intake form below.

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Ottawa Family lawyer provides tips on minimizing family conflict

I have been practicing conflict resolution for ten years.  Here is a basic model to help people resolve their disputes in a family setting.

Basic conflict resolution model:

1.  STOP before you lose control of your temper and make things worse.

2.  SAY what you want.

3.  LISTEN to the other person’s ideas.

4.  THINK of possible solutions

5.  If you still can’t agree ask someone else to help work it out.

1.  STOP

Don’t have an important discussion when you are upset.  Plan a time with the other party that makes sense (I recommend Sunday evenings, or Friday afternoons).  Come prepared to the meeting and address the issue with respect.

2.   SAY

If you are the person with the issue then it is your responsibility to communicate it.  Framing the issue is of the utmost importance in order to work towards resolution.   Do not disparage or “attack” the other party when framing the issue.  A basic rule of thumb is to frame the issue in terms of your own needs, as opposed to how you would like the other party to contribute towards resolution.

Example:

“You need to come home earlier.”  or

“You always come home late.”  vs.

“I’m really tired from being with the baby all day and I really need a break by 6 p.m.”

Very subtle difference in language and tone but it can go along way to reducing conflict.  Most dysfunctional or chronic conflict contains an element of power/control – one party having an issue and attempting to control the other’s behaviour in order to resolve the issue.

3. LISTEN

You have to understand what the problem is before you can solve it.   Listen, ask questions,   and confirm what you understand  the issue to be.  Dig down and get it to a very basic level.  “OK – so basically – by 6 p.m. you are strung out and need to have a break.  It’s not that you necessarily need me home, but that you need to rest because you are at your limit.”

4.  THINK

Now it’s time to start spitballing.  The key to success in this step is to resist the urge to evaluate (and probably shoot down) potential solutions.  At the outset simply record the ideas and encourage discussion.  Talk about what you can do, as opposed to what you can’t.”

“I can’t come home on Mondays, but I can do Fridays.”

“Even if I had three days I think I could manage the other two.”

“Who are some people we could ask for help?”

5.    GET HELP

If two parties can’t agree on a possible solution then it becomes necessary to engage a third party to help resolve the dispute.  Usually the third party is either a mediator, arbitrator, or an expert, but it can ultimately be anything.  Roll dice, high card, paper rock scissor, whatever the parties agree to.  Try anything that gives both sides what they want.  The idea at this stage isn’t to resolve the dispute, but to agree on how the dispute will be resolved.

“We’re at an impasse.  What do you say we’ll try it your way for two weeks, and then my way for two weeks.  We’ll see what works and then come back and try again.”

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Top Five Tips from Ottawa Real Estate Lawyer

1.  Don’t buy and sell on the same day

It is important to leave a few days in between your real estate purchase and real estate sale closings.  Banks and mortgage companies are able to offer clients “bridge” financing to cover the gap between the purchase and the sale.   Closings can be delayed and planning to do both on the same day is not recommended.

2.   Budget for the unknown

Being house poor can put unnecessary stress on new homeowners.  Once you own the home there are several up-front expenses (window treatments, fixtures, renovations) that can drain your pocketbook and have your worrying about your bank account.  Do yourself a favour and leave room for the unknown.  Have a reserve fund.

3.  Home Inspections

Real estate lawyers recommend that both purchasers and vendors acquire home inspections for their real estate transactions.  While home inspections are standard for purchasers, there are also several benefits for vendors.  They identify potential issues up front for potential buyers.  This will prevent any re-negotiation of the sale price once the potential buyer learns of the defects.  It may also protect the vendor from post-closing lawsuits by having the issues tabled prior to closing.  Finally, it shows good faith on the part of the vendor.

4.  Cleanliness is important

There is nothing more disappointing for a new home owner than walking into their expensive new home to find it littered with someone else’s crap.  It happens more than it should, and while the real estate lawyer will obtain a closing document that says it will be clean, no one wants to sue in small claims court over minor issues.  Have your realtor insert a clause that allows for an inspection 24 hours prior to closing.  If there is still junk ask for a $500.00 holdback of the closing funds to cover any potential cleaning costs.  That will ensure that the vendors leave the property in broom-swept condition.

5.  Be ready

Stay on top of your closing.  Put a call into your real estate lawyer a few days prior (or send an email.)  Make sure that you have the funds in place for closing as well as insurance.  Bring two pieces of ID to your appointment.  Staying organized can make a difference.

If you are buying or selling a home complete an intake form here and our office will be in touch.   Alternatively you can email info@ottawalawyer.com or call (613) 233-7000.

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Finding an Ottawa Family Lawyer

Having your family structure change is traumatic.  Going through a separation is a difficult time and it is important that you have a competent guide to help you through the process. If you are looking for a Family Law Lawyer in Ottawa then please consider Delaney’s Law Firm as your first choice.  The firm’s  family law lawyers are tried and tested and are there to provide you with the advise and support that you need to help with your transition.   If you are looking for an Ottawa Family Lawyer look no further.

Disaster scenarios to avoid when dealing with a family law lawyer:

1)  “I want the best lawyer money can buy!”

You will pay, that’s for sure.  You’ll pay for  fancy offices, high salaries, and expensive Christmas parties.  The message that you are trying to send is that it’s important to you and that your spouse has hurt you deeply.  That you want the best possible outcome.  Don’t spend $100,000 to send that message.

2) “I want someone who will fight for me!”

It’s fairly easy for family law lawyers to throw gas on the fire in order to keep their billables nice and warm.  Divorce naturally creates feelings of contempt and blame.  Find a lawyer that will advocate for you without ratcheting up the family conflict.  The goal is to reduce the conflict.  Most clients don’t believe that it is possible.  Most mediators know better as do family law lawyers.  Conflict is temporary and will only last as long as there is fuel for the fire.

3)  “I need someone with experience.”

Experience helps, but it’s not the be all and end all.  The majority of family law files requires time and attention, not experience.  Most junior counsel have the necessary skill sets very early on in their practice to tackle basic family law issues.  They’ll have senior counsel available to help them with any unusual issues that need arise.  There are plenty of good lawyers in Ottawa with 2-3 years experience.

4) “My friend told me…”

Don’t rely on people who aren’t lawyers for legal advice.  It’s foolish, and a poor choice during a crucial time in your life.  Go with a pro.  Get it done right.

Finding a Personal Injury lawyer in Ottawa

If you have been seriously injured in an accident you should probably consult with a personal injury lawyer.   Delaney’s Law Firm has three personal injury lawyers that will be able to assist you with your case.  There is no charge to meet with one of the firm’s personal injury lawyers.

The first step is to call our office and book the consultation at (613) 233-7000.  The receptionist will arrange for a mutually convenient time to meet.  You should bring any important documents to the meeting including details of the accident, the mva police report, any medical records in your possession, et cetera.

Delaney’s Law Firm is a nearly paperless office.  That means that the lawyer will scan a digital copy of your records and return the originals to you.

The lawyer will be able to provide you with some basic and general advise on your claim at the outset.  If you wish to retain Delaney’s Law Firm the lawyer will review the options with respect to legal fees.  Most personal injury clients retain their lawyer on a contingency basis- meaning that accounts are only rendered if the case is settled or won.  The lawyers’ fee will be based on the amount that is recovered in the action.

There are almost always timelines and limitations periods with respect to accidents.  Don’t delay – contact the firm by completing the intake form below and ensure that your rights are protected.

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Lawyers’ Blog

Lawyers in Ottawa will have a wide variety of opinions on family law, real estate law, personal injury law and estate issues. The lawyers at Delaney’s Law Firm are no different. They are encouraged to share their views through this blog section. The posts are not edited and do not reflect the views of the law firm. If you have an issue with something that is written here please contact the firm and the matter will be reviewed.

These posts are designed to educate, stimulate discussion, and are not a substitute for a legal opinion.

Need a lawyer in Ottawa?

If you need a lawyer in Ottawa, you have come to the right place.  Our site features a cross-section of some of the best and brightest lawyers in Ottawa today.  Whether you need a family lawyer, personal injury lawyer, real estate lawyer, or someone more specialized we will be able to assist.

Delaney’s Law Firm is a nearly paperless office located at 352 Elgin Street in Ottawa, Ontario.  The firm was established in 2006 by it’s founder, Bryan Delaney.  There are currently five lawyers practicing in the firm in a variety of different practice areas.

The law firm operates on Apple computers, iPhones, and has been recognized as a leader in incorporating the use of technology in the practice of law.  This edge allows our lawyers to be more efficient with their time, more responsive to client needs, and more informed about the current trends in the law today.  Check out our Facebook and Twitter pages to keep up to date on the firm’s contributions and current events.

If you’d like to get started with us send an email at info@delaneys.ca or call (613) 233-7000.  You can also complete one of our handy intake forms here!

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