Hundreds of Kitchener-Waterloo residents appear in family court over divorce proceedings each year. If you asked them what they thought of the process, many would expound on how stressful, confusing, time-consuming, and expensive it is to get a divorce. Ask a clerk, judge, or family divorce lawyer in KW and there’s a good chance you’ll receive similar answers.
In the legal community, it’s almost universally acknowledged that the family court process is difficult and destructive for many families. Many lawyers, mindful of the financial and mental toll, discourage their clients from taking their issues to court unless absolutely necessary.
Now, the federal government is introducing a bill that could make that step mandatory for every family divorce lawyer in KW and beyond.
Bill C-78, introduced by the majority Liberals, proposes to introduce a duty that family court litigants, “try to resolve matters that may be the subject of an order under this act through a family dispute resolution process” unless the circumstances of the case make it “clearly” inappropriate.
Additionally, the proposed law would require lawyers and other legal advisers to encourage their clients to settle matters using out-of-court proceedings like mediation, negotiation or collaborative law.
Carol Hickman, a career family lawyer and bencher at the Law Society of British Columbia, spoke to Canadian Lawyer Magazine about Bill C-78. In this interview, Hickman feels optimistic that the bill could make a positive difference to divorce litigants in Canada if it makes its way through Parliament.
“The earlier you can get people to look at alternatives to court, before things become too entrenched, the better,” she says.
In addition to lessening the emotional impact, settling a divorce out of court save individuals and their families thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Although we don’t have statistics on the cost of a divorce in KW, we can estimate based on Canada-wide surveys. According to Canadian Lawyer’s 2011 legal fees survey, the average cost of an uncontested divorce in Canada is $1,353. A divorce that goes to court, on the other hand, carries an average cost of $12,875. A divorce in Kitchener-Waterloo today likely costs more, both due to inflation and because of the higher legal fees associated with the cities’ proximity to Toronto.
Settlement is something that can be discussed at the earliest meetings with a lawyer. Before retaining a family divorce lawyer in KW, inquire about the possibility of settlement and whether the lawyer has experience in that area. Retaining a representative who encourages settlement and has handled divorce mediations and negotiations before will help you avoid taking it to court.