If you’re thinking of getting a divorce in Ontario, you may be surprised to learn just how expensive it is to hire a divorce lawyer these days. The average cost to retain one is anywhere from $5,000 – $10,000. After that, going rates range from $200 to $500 per hour. If your divorce is contested, it can cost more than $50,000 in legal feels to handle your case- before it goes to trial. But despite the high price tag, there were 26,577 divorces in Ontario in 2001 (the last year for which statistics are available).
The financial shock is only part of the trauma people experience when going through a divorce,” said Bob Berman, a Toronto divorce lawyer. “The emotional trauma is just as devastating because of the gut-wrenching decisions that have to be made such as: who will provide how much financial support to whom; what to do with any property you own; and how will one couple’s income suddenly fund two separate lives?
Berman, a senior member of the Family Law Bar of Ontario, has successfully guided countless people through the divorce process and the Ontario Family Court system over the last 30 years. He created MyOntariodDivorce.com to prove that it is possible to negotiate your own Separation Agreement or successfully represent yourself in the Ontario Family Courts and obtain a divorce without hiring an expensive divorce lawyer- like him.
Whether you can afford to hire a lawyer or choose to take the do-it-yourself route, Berman advises people to do their homework first to learn more about the process and the journey they are about to embark upon. A visit to MyOntarioDivorce.com is a good place to start. Below, Berman provides some of the information that can be found on his website and dispels the most common divorce myths he encounters in his practice.
Below are some of the terms you will need to know if you’re filing for divorce in Ontario:
Application: The document used to commence a court proceeding. There are three types of Applications: 1) General Application for Divorce- used when the spouses have unsettled issues and/or one of the spouses is contesting the divorce; 2) Simple Application- used when all that is sought is a divorce; and 3) Joint Application- used when both spouses are seeking a divorce and all issues have been resolved amicably.
Breakdown of the Marriage: This is the sole ground for obtaining a divorce in Canada. A “breakdown of the marriage” can be established by one of three ways: 1) through evidence that one of the spouses committed adultery, which is not forgiven by the other spouse; 2) evidence that one of the spouses subjected the other spouse to physical or mental cruelty to the extent that it became unbearable for the victimized spouse to continue living with the abuser; or 3) if the spouses lived separate and apart for a period of at least one full calendar year with the understanding that their marriage is over.
Child Support: An amount of money paid by one parent to the other parent on either a monthly basis or as a lump sum payment. Child support is payable until a child is no longer defined as a “child of the marriage” in accordance with the Divorce Act or “dependent” as defined by the Family Law Act. The amount of child support is determined by the Child Support Guidelines and is based on the income of the parent paying the support and the number of children for whom support is payable.
Contested Divorce: If either the husband or the wife disputes the ground for divorce set out in the Application, or if the spouses are unable to agree on one or more terms of the divorce, such as the parenting arrangements for the children, child support, or spousal support, the divorce will be considered contested.
Separation Agreement: A legal document signed by married or common law spouses, or persons that have a child together, which details the settlement and arrangements they have reached with respect to the issues that arose following the breakdown of their relationship. It can deal with property, financial support, custody and access.
Simple (Uncontested) Divorce: If neither married spouse disputes the ground for divorce, and if they have been able to reach an agreement with respect to all of the issues arising from the breakdown of their marriage, for example child support, custody and access, one or both of the spouses can make an Application for a divorce, which Application can include a request for an Order that reflects the agreement the parties have reached. In most cases, the spouses will not need to appear in court to obtain the Divorce Order.
Spousal Support: An Order that one of the spouses must pay to the other spouse, usually on a monthly basis, a specified amount of money, either for a set period of time or indefinitely.
Debunking Divorce: Myth vs. Reality
Myth: Paying child support entitles a parent to access with the children.
Truth: Child support is ordered to distribute the costs of child care between the parents. If a Canadian divorce law court orders you to pay child support, that doesn’t mean that the court will also grant you access to the children. On the other hand, if you’re not ordered to pay child support in Canada, the other parent can’t deny you access to the children for that reason.
Myth: If both spouses are employed outside of the home, the courts won’t order spousal support.
Truth: It’s true that courts are more likely to order spousal support in cases where one spouse didn’t work outside of the home. But spousal support is also regularly awarded even when both spouses had jobs. Some factors that a court is likely to consider include: how great the difference is between the income of the spouses; and how long the relationship lasted.
Myth: If I hire a good divorce lawyer, I will get everything I want from my divorce.
Truth: You shouldn’t expect to get everything you ask for when going through a separation or divorce. Of course, you can refuse to compromise on anything, but this approach tends to backfire and only makes the process of divorce that much more strenuous.
Myth: I will be happy as soon as my divorce is final.
Truth: Many separated or divorced people seem to be deferring their happiness until they achieve certain goals. We tell ourselves; “I’ll be happy when my divorce is finalized,” “I’ll be happy when I get custody of the kids,” “I’ll be happy when I finally meet that one person in the world who’s right for me.”
Dr. Barbara De Angelis, a relationship therapist, calls this behaviour the “I’ll be happy when syndrome”; we sabotage our happiness by postponing it until some outside event or occurrence changes our lives forever. The truth, however, is that happiness is not an acquisition, it’s a skill. It’s not about what we get or experience, it’s about the way we live our lives every day.
Robert Berman B.C.L, LL.B
Founder & Family Law Lawyer