The cost of divorce in Canada

05 September 2019

Several legal surveys have shown that the average cost of an uncontested divorce in Canada can be between $4,800 and $6,800 per person. However, a contested divorce can start at $24,000 and depending on the circumstances; for example, a five-day court dispute can reach up to $82,000 per person.

Costs for divorce above $150,000 per person are not uncommon in middle-class cases where there are financial disputes.

Costs of divorce in Canada

Why does a divorce cost so much?

The longer it takes a couple to reach an agreement, the more it will cost to have a divorce. Moreover, if the divorce has to go to court, the cost will be much higher. Typically, the quicker a couple can resolve their disputes and come to mutual agreements on assets, debts, custody and support; the less a divorce will cost.

How to keep divorce costs to a minimum

Divorce mediation is an alternative and will get you the same, if not better, results at a lower cost and in much less time. Mediation prioritizes putting animosity aside in favour of working as a team to create a plan for you and your spouse, and children if they are involved.

The main goal of mediation is to lessen the impact on your children, family and finances so that you and your spouse can move forward with a more positive mindset. By keeping the overall time spent arguing and positioning to a minimum, mediation is often a less expensive and more practical option for divorce.

Many skilled mediators are familiar with family law and will help you understand, collect and review the legal maze of divorce. As a result, the cost/time reduction with their guidance, along with their expertise in facilitating difficult discussions and reaching a fair outcome is worth its weight in gold. Above all, time is the one expense that you can never get back.

A divorce mediator will also make sure that those decisions follow provincial legislation and will stand up to the scrutiny of the courts if need be.

When factoring the cost of divorce, remember time is money!

How do you get a divorce without waiting for a court date?

Many people spend anywhere from months to years waiting for a court date. Divorce mediation can sidestep the wait time by skipping the court process and focusing on decision making vs fighting.

Subsequently, once the assets of both parties are determined, the process for resolution is quite straightforward, and the resolution plan and drafting of a separation agreement are usually within 120 days. After that, filing for divorce is quite easy and straightforward. 

There are two parts to getting a divorce. The first is making the decisions that form the terms of the separation agreement. Getting to the separation agreement can be either straight forward and done collaboratively through mediation, or it can take years by fighting it out with lawyers.

Once you have a signed separation agreement, then after meeting specific legal terms such as living separate and apart for one year, you can file for divorce. The filing for divorce is not complicated but does require proper “paper processing” by the courts.

Average wait times for a Divorce in Alberta

  • Wait times of 20 days minimum after serving the Statement of Claim for Divorce.
  • Around six weeks: Wait for the National Divorce Registry to provide a Clearance Certificate to the courthouse.
  • One to four months, including the wait for the Clearance Certificate: The average amount of wait time for the court to grant a divorce.
  • 31 day wait for the appeal period to end after a judge signs your Divorce Judgement before you are legally divorced and can get your Certificate of Divorce.

As noted above, in the best scenario, receiving your divorce decree will take 2 to 4 months after you file. Of course, this does not include all the negotiations and effort put into achieving a separation agreement. This agreement forms part of the divorce application.


Mediation can help you reach closure in a fraction of the time it takes to get into court. Besides, you can also proceed with less stress knowing that you can achieve resolution in a more friendly and comfortable setting. Most mediation offices have designed their space to help ease the conflict and instead focus on collaboration.

Cheap divorce options don’t exist, but inexpensive mediation does

The average cost of divorce through mediation is $300 to $750 an hour. Compare this to the same amount per person when hiring two different lawyers.

Cost of divorce through the court system, per individual, as of 2019

Western Canada Eastern Canada Ontario
Average total uncontested* $5,200 - $6,400 $4,800 - $6,000 $5,400 - $6,800
Average total contested** $24,300 - $43,300 $25,300 - $43,300 $26,300 - $50,300
Using a higher-end firm*** $56,800 - $75,800 $57,800 - $78,800 $58,800 - $82,800
Cost breakdown
Uncontested divorce $1,401 - $1,600 $1,001 - $1,200 $600 - $1,000
Contested divorce $7,500 - $12,500
Separation agreement $1,500 - $2,000 $2,001 - $2,500 $1,500 - $2,000
Child custody and support agreement $1,500 - $2,000 $2,001 - $2,500 $2,501 - $3,000
Trial up to two days ~$13,000 $14,001 - $15,000 $14,001 - $16,000
Trial up to five days ~$26,000 $23,000 - $26,000 $23,000 - $32,000
Marriage / cohabitation agreement $1,400 - $1,700 1,400 - $1,700 / $2,301 - $2,600 $2,001 - $2,600
Spousal support agreement $800 - $1,600 $1,601 - $2,000 $1,601 - $2,400
Division of property/assets agreements $2,301 - $2,800 1,801 - $2,300 $2,301 - $2,800
~ Within a 10% margin of cost fluctuation * Uncontested divorce, including child custody agreement and division of property agreements. ** Contested divorce; includes a trial, child custody and division of property agreements. *** This is additional to the average total, Average Total + Firm Cost (Average cost is $32,500)
Note: These figures are the national average; as a result, they can fluctuate by the law practice and by the individual case of the couple. Because of this, one can assume that the more a couple fights, the higher the total cost will become.

Cite: Canadian Lawyer Magazine

How to separate with civility and dignity through a divorce

Judges, by no fault of their own, sometimes do not have enough time to dedicate to every case before them. Because of this, they often rely on boilerplate arrangements. These arrangements can lead to some worst-case scenarios, which may leave you feeling like you must oblige to the decisions of the court, even if the outcome was fair.

Divorce mediators will listen to the couple and determine the best way to translate their needs into a plan, which in turn can be put into a legally binding separation agreement.

Most importantly, the process is personal; it can help you and your former partner reach an outcome in a fraction of the time it would take in court. Also, you will both be in control of the creation of the customized plan, which makes it much easier to follow and allows room for creativity.

When do I need to get a divorce lawyer?

The only time you must have a lawyer is to provide independent legal advice on your separation agreement. As a result, independent legal counsel is also your best shield against contract infringement if problems arise in the future.