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How Much Does It Cost to Get a Divorce in BC?


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If you are unhappily married, you may be thinking about separation and divorce. Or, you may have already separated from your spouse and now want to finalize your divorce. In either case, cost is a big concern. How much does it cost to get a divorce in BC? Are there ways to reduce the financial impact of divorce? This article will help you understand the costs involved in divorce.

The Divorce Process in British Columbia

The Divorce Process in British Columbia

Divorce is the only way to legally end a marriage. In our province, only a judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia can issue a divorce order.

Assuming you are eligible to apply for divorce in BC, the divorce process is started by filing specific court forms, paying court fees, and serving court documents on your spouse.

An application to the Supreme Court of British Columbia is necessary even if you use the uncontested divorce process (contested and uncontested divorces are discussed in the next section). Divorce is uncontested when you and your spouse agree that you want to divorce and have settled all outstanding issues such as parenting, support, property, and debt.

If one spouse does not want a divorce or you and your spouse can’t agree on the outstanding issues arising from your marriage, you’ll need to resolve those issues by negotiation, mediation, or a trial before you can get a divorce order.

Types of Divorce in British Columbia

Types of Divorce in British Columbia

There are two main types of divorce: contested and uncontested.

1. Uncontested Divorce

If you and your spouse agree about how to deal with parenting issues, child support, spousal support, and property and debt issues, you can apply for an uncontested divorce. This is also called an undefended divorce or a desk order divorce. Most divorces in BC are uncontested, and the divorce order is issued by a judge without the spouses having to appear in court.

The uncontested divorce process is started by filing a Notice of Family Claim (F3) in the BC Supreme Court. You will also need to file other documents, including a completed Registration of Divorce Proceedings form, your original marriage certificate, your Separation Agreement (if you have one), or any existing Court Orders. All of the filed documents must be properly served on your spouse. Another option is for spouses to jointly file a Notice of Joint Family Claim (F1), which does away with the need for service.

If you filed a sole application and your spouse doesn’t respond to your Notice of Family Claim within 30 days, you can continue with the application for an uncontested divorce.  You will need to prepare and file several affidavits sworn by you, and other documents including a Certificate of Pleadings and a draft Divorce Order.

2. Contested Divorce

Contested Divorce

If you and your spouse want to get divorced but can’t agree about some or all issues (e.g., parenting, support, property division), you must use the contested divorce process. For more on these issues, have a look at these articles: How is child custody determined in BC? How is spousal support calculated in BC?  How is property divided on divorce? 

A contested or defended divorce is started in the same way as an uncontested divorce, by filing a Notice of Family Claim (F3) in the BC Supreme Court. If your spouse disagrees with any of your claims, they must file a Response to Family Claim (Form F4) within 30 days of being served. Once that is done, each of you must file a Financial Statement that will assist the judge when deciding spousal support and child support issues.

Beyond that, the process depends on the issues at stake and whether lawyers are involved. If you and your spouse are represented by lawyers, your lawyers will communicate, using direct negotiation and other dispute resolution strategies to resolve issues outside of the courtroom. If settlement is not reached, you will need to attend a Judicial Case Conference (JCC) to see if the issues can be settled without the need to go to trial. It may also be necessary to go to chambers to get interim orders (e.g., to get a temporary parenting schedule in place; to secure child support and/or spousal support while working toward a negotiated settlement or waiting for trial).

Your matter will go to trial if you can’t agree on all issues. A judge will make the final decision on any outstanding issues and grant a divorce order.

How long does it take to get a divorce in BC?

How long does it take to get a divorce in BC?

An uncontested divorce application typically takes about three to six months from the date of filing to the date the divorce order is issued by the judge. The process moves more quickly when parties agree on everything and the divorce application package is prepared correctly and without mistakes. The only decision left for the judge whether or not to grant the divorce order.

If your divorce contested, it can take months if not years to get a divorce order—especially if your divorce is not amicable. Your spouse may be unreasonable or use tactics to drag the matter out, and you may have to wait a long time for your trial to be scheduled depending on the courts’ capacity.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Divorce in BC?

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Divorce in BC?

  1. Court Fees and Filing Costs

There are certain court fees that have to be paid whether you file for a contested or uncontested divorce, and whether or not your are represented by a lawyer. At the time of writing, court fees in BC for a divorce application are $290 to $330. You should expect other incidentals and expenses, such as the fee to hire a process server, and fees to hire a notary to swear affidavits if you aren’t represented by a lawyer.

  1. Factors Affecting the Cost of Divorce in BC

There are many factors that will impact the cost of your divorce. Here are the primary factors:

  • Process: as you may have guessed by now, the cost of divorce depends on the process you use. The cost of a contested divorce will be significantly higher than for an amicable divorce that uses the uncontested or desk order divorce process.
  • Legal representation: the DIY approach is cheapest, but may cost you time, money, and stress in the long run. It is highly recommended that you hire a lawyer to assist you. Your lawyer’s fees will depend on the process used and what is needed in your case:
    • Most family lawyers charge a flat fee or fixed fee to review or prepare a desk order divorce. Contact our divorce lawyers for a quote. 
    • You can hire a family lawyer to negotiate and draft a separation agreement resolving all outstanding issues, then proceed with filing for an uncontested divorce on your own or with the help of a lawyer.
    • You can hire a family lawyer to bring a claim in BC Provincial Court to settle contested parenting and support issues, then proceed with filing for an uncontested divorce in BC Supreme Court on your own or with the help of a lawyer. The Provincial Court process can be speedier, but that court can’t deal with any property issues.
    • You can hire a family lawyer to represent you in contested divorce proceedings in the BC Supreme Court. Legal fees for a contested divorce can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars, but you won’t have to pay that all at once. Divorce lawyers usually request a deposit, also known as a “retainer” which will be drawn upon as work is done. You will need to replenish the retainer periodically as your matter progresses.
  • Complexity of the issues. If you have many issues to resolve such a property division, parenting arrangements and support, or complex issues such as valuation of a private family business, the cost of the divorce process will increase. It may be necessary to hire experts to value assets or businesses. A good divorce lawyer can review the unique facts of your case and provide you with an estimate of costs and how much time it will take to resolve issues and get a divorce order.
  • Dispute resolution methods. Trials are expensive. Using dispute resolution methods like mediation, arbitration, and collaborative law may save you time and money and avoid the stress of a trial.

Who pays for the divorce in BC?

If you and your spouse can reach a separation agreement, it should set out who pays the costs of obtaining a divorce order. For example, it may state that the spouses will equally share the cost, or that the spouse who applies must pay.

It is also worth noting that in contested divorce proceedings, the court can award “costs” to the winning party after a step in the proceeding or after the trial itself. These court-ordered costs will cover some but not all of your legal fees and expenses.

Tips for Reducing Divorce Costs

There are ways to reduce the financial impact of divorce proceedings.

1. DIY divorce and online resources

DIY divorces are the least expensive, but this route is only recommended for the most straightforward divorces (e.g. no children, no property or debt issues). If you are thinking about using the DIY divorce route to save money, you may be wondering, can I file for divorce online in BC? The answer is no. However, there is an online resource to assist you with the paperwork if you are filing a joint divorce application.

2. Settling disputes amicably

The more amicable the better. When spouses take unreasonable positions or refuse to negotiate, it will cost more in terms of time, energy, and money. Having a skilled divorce lawyer on your side can go a long way to diffusing tensions and keeping focus on the real issues.

  1. Limiting court appearances

Motions and other court appearances are costly, as are trials. Resolving as much as possible outside of the courtroom is a good way to reduce divorce costs.

How can I find a good divorce lawyer in BC?

Whether you are just starting the process or are in the middle of a difficult separation, Onyx Law Group’s experienced Vancouver divorce lawyers can help you navigate the legal system and craft the best solution for your specific circumstances. Our goal is to help you achieve a positive outcome that allows you to confidently more forward in your life.  Contact us today!

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