The True Cost of Family Law Court Battles
As family law lawyers in Calgary, we deal with many parenting disputes. Parenting and decision-making matters can often result in court appearances, especially if the decision to divorce is highly contested. When family law disputes turn ugly, another issue often becomes the forefront of the battle.
If you or anyone you know have been through the court system, you know that lawyer’s fees can be expensive. However, many clients don’t realize that the court can award costs against you for various reasons and require you to pay the other party. As the top divorce lawyers in Calgary, we want to ensure you know what to expect when it comes to the costs of family court proceedings.
What Types of Costs Are Involved in Family Law Court Battles?
In family law, costs refer to the monies paid from one party to the other in a legal proceeding. Costs are not a right and are up to the Judge or Justice. They are awarded mainly to discourage bad behaviour, encourage settlements, and reward successful parties. It’s also up to the Court to determine the value of costs awarded.
While the Alberta Rules of Court contain cost suggestions, the Judge or Justice may decide not to follow them. If costs are awarded, it is necessary for the party to pay. Costs are enforced under the Maintenance Enforcement Act for matters involving a child or spousal support. The Maintenance Enforcement Program ensures support orders are followed by suspending your driver’s license or taking the costs directly from your paycheck if you refuse to pay.
When Are Costs Awarded?
Typically, costs are awarded at the end of a court appearance, such as a morning chambers appearance, domestic special, or the end of a trial. However, in family law, it is not uncommon for costs to be awarded at any point in the process. For example, if one party fails to provide all of their financial disclosure within the allocated time frame, the other party may make an Interim Order for costs. This can result in the party not producing their financial disclosure and being ordered to pay the other party a certain sum. This is why it’s imperative to adhere to deadlines.
Another common example is if one party makes a settlement offer not accepted by the other party, the judge may order costs to be given to the party who made the offer. The Court may order double costs in a situation like this to encourage parties to settle outside the court system.
Analysis of Serra v. Serra
In this case, the parties attended a 9-day trial and one-day appeal. The husband was very successful in both the trial and appeal. As such, his counsel sought to have costs awarded to him to cover all the legal fees and disbursements. The counsel seeking costs argues that the trial was prolonged by the wife’s irrational belief that the husband’s company was worth far more than he disclosed.
The trial Judge found no reason to believe the husband was hiding any company assets. The husband and his counsel had made numerous attempts to settle before the trial. The wife refused to agree to a settlement and did not provide any settlement terms of her own. The Court issued the costs based on what they viewed as fair and reasonable. The husband was awarded $275,000 for the trial and $25,000 for the appeal.
Indemnity costs, also known as solicitor-client costs, allow a party to recover all of their legal costs in a proceeding. Generally, solicitor-client costs are only awarded in extreme situations involving conduct that the Supreme Court of Canada called “reprehensible, scandalous, or outrageous” in the 2004 decision Hamilton v. Open Window Bakery Ltd.
Partial Indemnity Costs
Otherwise referred to as Party and Party Costs, allow a litigant to recover a portion of their legal expenses. Cost awards of this type are common, and the percentage will vary based on the circumstances. Schedule C of the Alberta Rules of Court contains a tariff schedule for calculating costs.
Nevertheless, the schedule has not been updated for several years. The outdated tariffs listed in Schedule C will generally only cover 10-20% of a party’s actual costs. Thus, courts typically increase costs calculated under Schedule C, as necessary.
The Cost Of Divorce In Calgary
As family law lawyers, when a person contacts us about filing for divorce, one of the first questions we get is, “How much will this cost me?”
While we can provide a breakdown of our lawyer fees, the final cost of the divorce differs for each case and depends on many factors, such as:
- The complexity of the dispute;
- The willingness of all parties to adhere to deadlines and participate in the process; and
- Any conflicts that arise and the dispute resolution methods are chosen to address conflict.
A divorce that ends up in court is typically more costly. One way couples can reduce the cost of divorce is to work out agreements together to minimize conflict and prevent back-and-forth communication between lawyers.
Beyond monetary costs, going through a divorce eats up time, energy, and emotional and mental capacity – especially when children are involved. Couples may need to take time off work, meet with legal counsel, fill out paperwork, and organize documents, among other things.
Experienced Family Law Lawyers in Calgary
The actual cost of divorce is complex, and as family law lawyers, we will work hard to advocate for our client’s best interests.
At Jones Divorce and Family Law, we aim to minimize divorce’s emotional and financial strain. Our firm was created for clients who want meaningful access to justice through quality, binding resolutions – with the option to proceed with or without lawyers.
The content provided in the blog posts of Jones Divorce & Family Law is general information and should not be considered legal advice. Please contact a lawyer for legal advice tailored to your specific situation. All articles are current as of their original publication date.