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Separation and divorce

How do lawyers charge for their services?

Before you hire a lawyer for your separation or divorce, it’s important to know what’s included in a lawyer’s bill and how you can pay it. Here’s some important things you should understand about your lawyer’s bill along with some helpful tips to avoid unpleasant surprises.

What can a lawyer charge for?

Lawyers can charge for their professional services along with expenses they pay while working on your separation or divorce.

Here are different things that can show up in your lawyer’s bill.

  • Meetings in person,
  • writing documents to apply for divorce or custody of children,
  • legal research,
  • phone calls,
  • writing letters or emails,
  • time spent at court.
Taxes

You should know that a lawyer’s services are taxable. Sales taxes will be added to those items on your bill.

  • Photocopies,
  • postage,
  • transportation expenses.
Taxes

You should know that a lawyer’s expenses are taxable. Sales taxes will be added to those items on your bill.

  • Travel to serve legal documents on your ex,
  • time spent seizing property or money following a judgment.

Bailiffs charge based on the number of times and the distance that they must travel.

Taxes

You should know that bailiff services are taxable. Sales taxes will be added to those items on your bill.

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Professional Fees - French only (Chambre Des Huissiers De Justice Du Québec - bailiff association of Quebec)

  • Fees for opening a file at the court.

These fees can cost anywhere from $120 to $350 and are not subject to sales taxes. The amounts are set by the government and varies depending on the type of file.

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Tariff of Court Costs - Divorce and separation (Justice Québec)

  • Payment of interpreters,
  • compensation for witnesses.

The most common forms of billing

The two most common types of billing are the hourly rate and the fixed rate. However, there are other types of billing which can be used.

Lawyers can decide how they wish to bill. This makes it important to discuss billing with your lawyer at your first meeting.

You should know that, no matter what type of billing is chosen, it’s possible that your lawyer will ask you to pay a certain amount in advance (the retainer).

For this type of billing, the lawyer charges a certain amount for each hour worked on your case. This includes things like meetings, calls, and time spent at court.

In Quebec, the hourly rate generally varies between $100 and $350 an hour.

The rate can vary for many reasons, such as:

  • The experience of the lawyer,
  • special skills the lawyer may have which are useful for your case,
  • the complexity of your case,
  • the region where you live.

Hourly billing has the advantage of letting you know exactly what your lawyer worked on and for how long. On the other hand, it can also make it difficult to estimate how much your case will cost ahead of time. While every case is different, your lawyer should still be able to estimate how much time it will take to complete certain tasks and give you a rough estimate of the cost.

A fixed rate means that the lawyer will charge predetermined prices for some of or all of your case.

For example, a fixed rate can include preparing an urgent court request regarding child custody. It’s also possible to get a fixed rate for entire cases – for instance a divorce.

It’s important to verify with your lawyer what is, and what is not, included in the fixed rate. It’s possible that court fees could also be included.

Also, don’t forget to plan for paying sales tax on professional services and expenses.

How can you avoid bad surprises and hidden fees?

In order to avoid any surprises, it’s best to discuss billing with your lawyer at your first meeting. For example, you could discuss:

  • How the lawyer bills.
  • What fees are and what fees are not included.
  • How often the lawyer will send their bill.

This information can be set out in writing in a “fee agreement”. You can ask your lawyer to prepare one. If you need any explanations, don’t hesitate to ask your lawyer. They must help you understand what will be billed and how.

By the way, you don’t have to wait until your divorce or separation is over before asking for your first bill. It can be easier to plan your budget if you receive your bills regularly.

Did you know?

You can sometimes deduct some of your legal expenses from your taxes.

For example, you may be able to deduct some of your legal fees you paid to ask for support payments for your children or yourself.

Ask your lawyer what amounts on your bill can be deducted from your taxes.

You can consult a specialist, like an accountant, who can identify the deductions for which you’re eligible and how to claim them.

Resources

Are you looking for a lawyer, a psychologist, a notary, or a mediator?

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Warning

The information presented on this page is not a legal opinion or legal advice. This page explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. To obtain a legal opinion or legal advice on your personal situation, consult a legal professional.

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