Family Law FAQ

Family Law FAQ

Which lawyer handles family matters regularly? How experienced is he/she?

While not true of the other areas of law, all of the lawyers at Cote & Evans Trial Lawyers practice family law. Accordingly, all of the lawyers are experienced and capable of handling all types of family law matters.

Phil Cote and Paul Evans have been practicing family law since 2010 and 2012 respectively, and are the most experienced at the firm, but they also charge the highest hourly rates. We encourage you to speak with our staff and lawyers about your case, how much you are able to spend on it, and which lawyer would be the right fit for you.

How long will it take for my case to finish? yer handles family matters regularly? How experienced is he/she?

The short answer is it depends on what you and your spouse do. Some cases resolve very quickly and amicably with a separation agreement signed by both parties in a matter of a few weeks. Other times, there is a lot of a conflict or difficulties with production of documents and other matters essential to resolving a case. In those circumstances, a case can potentially take months or even years before a final order is made by a judge.

You can help reduce the time it takes to complete your case by (1) responding to requests from your lawyer for information and documentation (particularly financial records), and (2) attempting to resolve matters outside of court wherever practicable.

What is this family law case going to cost me?

Like with the question about how long the case will take, the answer depends on what you and your spouse do. In the event things resolve outside of court quickly, the cost will likely be very low. A straightforward separation agreement for instance, can cost in the range of $1,000- 3,000. On the other hand, if your case involves multiple court applications, and is only resolved following a trial, the cost can be in the tens of thousands of dollars, and potentially more in very complicated or protracted cases.

It is very difficult for us to tell you how much your case will cost in the early stages. That is because we do not know what your spouse will do, or how reasonable he or she will be in coming to an agreement. As your case progresses though, we will advise you about how much we expect each stage to cost, and the potential outcomes.

What are ways of resolving my case outside of court?

A negotiated outcome is almost always preferable to going to court. That is because (1) it is much less expensive and (2) there is certainty over the outcome. When you go to court, you present your case but the final decision is out of your hands.

When you come to an agreement, you know exactly what the outcome will be because its set out clearly in the agreement. In the case of your children, for instance, agreeing on a schedule that you know will work is often preferable to having a schedule imposed by a judge, which may or may not be manageable.

There are many ways that a case can be resolved outside of court. First of all, at any stage of proceedings prior to a trial, either side may make a “settlement offer.” This means that they send a letter, often marked “without prejudice” (which means that the other side can’t use it in court), setting out the terms of an offer. If the receiving side decides to accept the offer, the case is over on those terms.

Often there are lots of offers and counter-offers until an agreement is reached, and many cases resolve in this manner.

Second, the parties can engage in a formal mediation. This involves hiring a mediator to act as a neutral third-party. The mediator will then speak with both sides and help them try to come to an agreement. This is not always successful, but the mediator will generally try their best to push parties to put aside their differences and come to an agreement they can all live with.

Third, there are Judicial Case Conferences (in Supreme Court) and Family Case Conferences (in Family Court) a judge sits down with the parties (and the lawyers) and tries to help them achieve agreement. Their role is much like a mediator, and they may offer opinions on the strength of each party’s claims in order to help them move towards settlement.

What process do you recommend for my family law case? Will we have to go trial?

When a fair agreement can be reached outside of court, that is always preferable. The courts exist to provide an outcome when the parties cannot agree. Sometimes it is necessary to proceed to court when the other side is not prepared to settle on reasonable terms and the outcome will likely be better for the client going through court.

Similarly, it helps to negotiate from a position of strength, and sometimes an unreasonable spouse will only come to the table when it is clear that you are prepared to go to court to achieve a reasonable outcome. In this way, having experienced trial lawyers on your side can be a real advantage to avoid being bullied into an unfair agreement or pushed around in court.

Can my case be resolved soon? I want to move on?

We will do our best to move your case towards a timely and cost-effective outcome, but please understand that there are a lot of factors outside of our control. These include delays in obtaining documents or other materials necessary to provide an informed opinion about your options, court delays (it can take over a year to get a trial date, and sometimes the courts are overbooked and cases are adjourned), delays from the other side, and most importantly, whether you and your spouse are prepared to be reasonable in settling your case.

You can help reduce the time it takes to complete your case by (1) responding to requests from your lawyer for information and documentation (particularly financial records), and (2) attempting to resolve matters outside of court wherever practicable.

What kind of retainer do I need to put down?

This depends on the type of legal matter you have. For instance, if you require us to prepare a separation agreement, we will require a retainer of between $1,000-2,000 to start working on your case. If, on the other hand, you have a complicated application that you need to respond to in short order, we may require a retainer of between $5,000-10,000.

During your consultation, the lawyer will speak with you about the retainer required in your case and what work the lawyer anticipates can be completed for that retainer.

It is important to remember that a retainer is not necessarily the amount that your case will cost to complete, and that your case may cost (significantly) more or less than the retainer. For instance, in the case of the application where you provide a retainer of $10,000, if the matter is quickly resolved through negotiation, and we do not need to proceed to court, we will likely be refunding a significant portion of the retainer to you. We only charge for the time actually spent on your case.

In the other example, where you retain us to prepare a retainer agreement, but your ex-spouse refuses to sign it and takes you to court, your legal fees will be significantly higher than the initial retainer.

If I retain, what do you need right away/next steps?
We will advise you what we need from you, but generally it is helpful for us to have a completed “Family Law Questionnaire” so we have important information about your case, including important dates, dates of birth and names of children, and financial assets.
I don’t know which day I was served with the family claim? Now what?

If you do not respond to a family law claim served on you within 30 days, the other side can take what is called “default judgment”. That means that they can proceed to court without notice to you and ask the judge for orders. These can have very significant consequences, and it can be challenging to set aside any orders that are made in your absence.

It’s important that you immediately seek legal advice if you are worried that you may be approaching or have exceeded the 30 days from the date of service.

How will we find my ex-spouse? I have no info on him/her?

We contract with investigators who have special knowledge and skills in locating individuals. The cost for their services is significant, so the more information you can provide about ways to contact or locate your ex-spouse, the better.


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