Conditions for Free Information from Family Lawyer in Toronto.
I provide free Ontario family law information and address Frequently Asked Questions about marital separation, divorce, child custody and support and related matters on this Web site.
Initial Free Consultation
If you have additional questions, I will provide a free initial family law consultation if you qualify by meeting all three of the following conditions:
1) You reside or have a spouse, child or property in Toronto, Ontario, Canada;
2) You have commenced family court proceedings or received a letter from a family lawyer;
3) You can afford our initial retainer, which is a minimum $1,500 for an uncontested divorce.
Initial Paid Consultation
If you do not qualify for all three conditions above and still have unanswered questions regarding Ontario family law matters, you may schedule an initial paid consultation with me for up to one hour at a cost of $300.
Matters Outside Our Jurisdiction
Regretfully, I cannot respond to inquiries related to matters outside Toronto or those not related to family law. I recommend you contact a lawyer within your local jurisdiction for assistance.
Explanation of Fees and Billing
The word “retainer” has two meanings. A “retainer” is the written agreement between a lawyer and client. The written retainer sets out the work for which you are hiring me for my hourly rate.
A “retainer” is also the work used for the money that the lawyer requests initially before working on the file and is paid to a lawyer in trust, for deposit to your credit, on the understanding that it will be used to satisfy accounts for legal services, and disbursements, at the time accounts are delivered. The retainer is a source of payment for your accounts. You are expected to provide and replace the retainer when requested, as it is spent, so that I can continue to have enough money in trust to cover the work we have done, and the next step, which needs to be done. Until you provide me with a retainer, or replace it when it is exhausted, I will not work on your file.
I obtain the money retainer in varying amounts depending on the type of file. The initial sum of money is usually set at an amount that will pay for the first stage of work. The amount of the retainer is arbitrary to some extent, and should not be taken as an estimate of the cost of the completion of the work in your particular case. At this point, before the issues are clarified, and before I know the degree of resistance to be offered, I cannot predict the amount of work to be done, nor the time needed to complete it. If I am to start negotiations on your behalf, my usual retainer is $1,500.00 to $3,000.00. If I am to begin litigation on your behalf, my usual retainer is $2,500.00 to $10,000.00, depending on the urgency of the situation and the complexity of the case. If your case is already in litigation, my retainer may be more, particularly if there is much to be done, or the matter is urgent. I do not continue working on a file unless there are sufficient funds to cover the intended work.
The retainer is not a flat fee or an estimate of the cost of your work. You are responsible for the fees and disbursements not covered by the initial or replacement retainer. Of course, any unused portion of the retainer will be refunded to you at the end of our work for you.
2. Determining fees
I will outline below the elements I rely on calculating my fees, how fees are determined, and how one can keep fees to a minimum.
The elements to be considered in determining fees are:
- The time expended;
- The legal complexity of the matter dealt with;
- The degree of responsibility assumed by the solicitor;
- The monetary value of the matter in issue;
- The importance of the matter to the client;
- The degree of skill and competence demonstrated by the solicitor;
- Your potential emotional and monetary exposure;
- The degree and type of resistance encountered
- The extent to which any work needs to be performed on an emergency basis; and
- The result achieved.
The fee is calculated by multiplying the time spent on a file by my hourly rate. As such client’s problems will take an undetermined amount of time to solve, the client whose case takes more time, pays more. Set fees are given only when lawyers know, almost for a certainty, or with a small range, how much time the matter will take, for instance uncontested divorce.
The time is recorded for everything I spent on your file to the nearest one tenth of an hour 6 minutes) with a minimum charge of one tenth of hour (6 minutes = $20). The typical activates on a file include talking on the telephone with clients, lawyers or experts, sending and receiving voicemails, sending and receiving e-mails, writing and receiving letters, 8consultation with clients, drafting documents, filing documents, developing a strategy, negotiating, researching and traveling to out of office attendances like court, mediation or examination for discovery.
Flat rates for drafting agreements and preparing financial statements
If my work for you includes the preparation of a financial statement and/or drafting of a domestic contract (marriage agreement, cohabitation agreement, separation agreement, minutes of settlement or other family law contract), I charge a flat rate for the financial statement and for the contract itself which does not include the negotiations around the contract or preparation of the financial statement. The rate for preparation of the financial statement ranges from $600.00 to $5000.00. The contract ranges from $600.00 to 5000.00. The choice of rate is influenced, in part, by the number of and complexity of the issues involved, your financial exposure, the speed and ability that you produce information requested by me and the amount of original drafting required.
While a legal fee is the amount of money that I receive for the professional services rendered, disbursements are monies spend by me on a client’s behalf, which I am entitled to be reimbursed. These are the actual out-of-pocket expenses which we incur on your behalf but will not include office overheads.
Examples of disbursements are:
- Money paid to various court officials to issue or file a document; ·
- Money paid to a process server to serve and/or file a document;
- Money paid for expert reports i.e. actuarial, psychological or business reports; and
- Money spent for photocopying, postage, courier, and facsimile machine charges or parking, long distance telephone calls, transcripts etc.
It should be noted that family law cases often times require involvement of several experts to properly address the issues at hand. As such, I regularly consult outside experts, in particular, health care and financial professionals to assist in the presentation and preparation of your case.
The health care professionals that I consult regularly, include, a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist. The financial professionals that I consult regularly, include, an accountant, a business valuator, or an actuary for pension valuations. Accountants are sometimes necessary to assist in obtaining and processing financial information necessary to prepare and present claims for support and for property, especially with determination of assets (i.e. pension, securities or value of a business) and income (i.e. income of self employed individuals). It should be noted that by retaining my services, you are authorizing me to obtain this assistance for you, at prevailing rates, at our discretion. Generally, my clients deal directly with the expert, and make payment arrangements with the expert personally. This direct contact also has the benefit of avoiding duplication, and reducing cost.
5. Estimating the cost of legal services
It is almost impossible for me to give estimates of what a file will cost as each file usually presents its own unique sets of issues. Nevertheless, I try to give estimates of what a file will cost at varying stages. It is not possible to accurately estimate costs in advance in family law cases because many important factors which influence the cost are unknown to me, and even outside my control, including the reaction and tactics of the other side, how many different issues there will be in your case, how much time it will take to resolve all the issues, how complicated the case is, new issues which may come up, and whether we can settle this case without going to court. Unlike other areas of law, the legal issues in a family law case may change during the time we work for you (new issues may arise, and existing issues may become more complex). I see it as my job to close your file as quickly and economically as possible, consistent with protecting your interests.
There are several ways you can help to lower your legal fees, including using your time wisely, being reasonable in the position you take concerning settlement and minimizing unnecessary conflict with your spouse.
Tips for using your time wisely:
- Do not unnecessarily contact me i.e. via telephone, e-mail or correspondences as you will be billed for time spent addressing your contacts;
- Cancel your appointment at least 24 hours before you are unable to attend as you billed for each preparation for the meeting i.e. reviewing file;
- Reduce your instructions in writing to avoid duplication;
- Prepare for the consultation and have the Financial Statement filled out as completely as possible;
- Do not treat me as your psychiatrist – stick to the legal issues and not the emotional issues. If you need psychological counseling please get it. I would be happy to refer to the appropriate health professional;
- Save up your questions for consultations and therefore reduce the number of contacts (telephone or e-mail) about single minor matters.
- Provide me with the facts of your case by giving me all the information I request the first time, or soon after. It helps very much of you type out your story and the facts requested;
- Be prepared to try mediation if you and I believe it might be appropriate.
Being reasonable in the position you take concerning settlement is another way of influencing your legal costs. One of the reasons for higher legal fees is that the parties fail to settle. If a client takes an unreasonable position then the matter will go to court, which is the most expensive aspect of the file. Unfortunately, if your spouse takes an unreasonable position, the fees will be higher unless you agree to those unreasonable demands.
Level of Conflict
It is important for you to understand that the amount of money spent on legal fees in a family law case is directly related to the level of conflict in your case, and the way in which that conflict is resolved. It is the lawyer’s job to resolve the dispute on your behalf, and on your instructions. Responsible lawyers do not create disputes. The level of conflict in your case will be a direct reflection of the level of conflict in your relationship with your former partner. Our job is to assist you in resolving that conflict, not in making it worse. You must have realistic expectations, however, about the impact the lawyer can have in a case with very high levels of conflict, whether those levels of conflict originate with your former partner, or the lawyer representing your former partner.
A Client’s accounts consist of three components: the legal fees, disbursements and statement of trust funds. Legal fees are the amount of money that I receive for the professional services performed. Disbursements are monies spent on a client’s behalf. The statement of trust funds shows what monies the client in trust received and how those monies were spent.
Our office prepares interim accounts on a regular basis, usually on the15th and 30th of the month, for fees and disbursements. If your case is very active, particularly if we are in court for you, you may get accounts weekly. This is, in part, an effort to ensure that you have a good understanding of what the case is costing you at all times. For most people, the cost of the case will be an influencing factor in decision-making about the next step to take.
The accounts are due to be paid when they are sent. If the account is not paid within 30 days, interest will be charged on the outstanding balance at the rate permitted in the Solicitors Act (and shown on the account, from the date of the account till the date of payment).
8. Progress of your case
I will keep you informed of all major developments in your case. I forward to you copies of all relevant correspondence between lawyers, pleadings, and any other court documents, and reports. I will send you copies of this material by e-mail, if possible, and if not, then we can send you paper copies of this material. It is important to keep this material, and, it is to your advantage to maintain it in an organized format. If you need additional paper copies of correspondence or pleadings, we can make them available to you at our usual rates for printing and photocopying, and any other work involved. I suggest you keep the correspondence in one file and the pleadings and other court documents in another file, and all of the documents in chronological order.
9. Ending our work for you
At any time, you may fire me by giving me written notice to stop all work on your behalf, and paying any balance owing. If I am shown on court documents as your lawyer, then it is not as simple as just telling me to stop all work on your behalf. The court records must be formally changed, in writing. Usually I can file a document (Notice of Change in Representation or Notice to Act in Person), which you sign, advising the court and the other side that I have ceased being your lawyer. Failure to sign the document could be costly to you as I may be required to bring a motion to court to remove myself as your solicitor of record at your cost. If it is necessary for me to take legal steps either to end my representation of you or to collect my accounts, you will be charged for the time involved.
Subject, always, to my obligation to ensure proper standards of professional conduct, I can also end the solicitor-client relationship. If this should happen, I will do so in writing, and I will assist in the transfer of your file, if appropriate.
Some of the circumstances that may cause me to end the retainer are:
- I cannot get instructions from you;
- you lose confidence in my ability or advice;
- a conflict of interest arises;
- we cannot accept your instructions for ethical reasons; i.e. you mislead us in a material matter or you lie to us;
- if the retainer has not been provided or replaced; and
- my accounts remain unpaid for 30 days, and no mutually agreeable arrangements have been made.
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