Key Questions and Answers

Thanks for asking about my legal services for people who are divorcing…

I’m going to tell you everything you want to know: How to reduce the pain, stress and expense of divorce. How I can help you. What my legal services cost. What others say about them. Why you can’t lose.

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been married for one year or twenty-five. Whether you have no children or a dozen. Whether you work or are retired.

Nor does it matter whether you own a private jet or an old clunker. Whether you’re a world traveler or a couch potato. Whether you own a 50-room mansion or rent a studio apartment.

When you ask me to represent you in your divorce, you’ll discover that I really care about what happens to you and your loved ones. You’ll discover that I see you not as a case or file, but as you really are – in a difficult situation – wanting to improve your life, protect your assets, and do what’s right for your kids.

When you read comments from my past clients, you’ll see what I did for them. Now I’d like the opportunity to help you, too!

It’s simple. Just tell me about your situation and what you’d like to accomplish.

Then I’ll get to work and help you achieve your goals – in the shortest possible time – while preserving your assets for yourself and your loved ones. And I promise I’ll work hard to help you keep your money and minimise your lawyer’s fees, so when your divorce is final, you won’t look around and see that you have nothing left!

OK. Let’s say you’d like me to represent you but you don’t know where to begin. I think I can guess your ques­tions:

"What do we do during our first meeting?"
Normally, I gather information from you, determine your objectives, and explain in general terms what the law is and how it relates to your case. Then I’ll explain different ways I can help you achieve your objectives.

"What is your approach to legal fees?"
I know that people who face divorce often don’t have extra money. If I were part of a large firm, I would have to charge a small fortune just to cover my overhead. But as a small firm, my law practice is lean and mean. In addition, I try to come up with ways to solve your problems so you don’t need to spend a lot of money on legal fees.

"Is there an initial fee?"
If you ask me to represent you, I request that you give me a retainer and sign my agreement so I can start working on your behalf. The amount will depend on the complexity of your case. If it’s more convenient for you, you can charge my retainer on your Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Interac.

Please note that if you are unwilling, or unable, to pay a retainer, you also have the option of Coaching.

"What can I expect in the way of costs?"
You and I will discuss costs in advance so you know what to expect. I’ll do my best to make sure you don’t face any financial surprises.

"Many lawyers charge for photocopies, postage, and the like. What do you charge for incidentals?"
I do not charge for incidentals. You will never receive a bill from me that includes photocopies, faxes, couriers or postage.

"How do you handle the money I give you?"
I hold the money you pay me in a trust account. Your money doesn’t belong to me until I earn it by providing legal services – or pay expenses for you. I ask for a retainer at the beginning of your case to make sure we have the money available when we need it. This takes a lot of pressure off you and me. At the end of your case, I will return to you any money you have paid that I still hold in trust.

Every month I will send you a bill. On this bill, you’ll see a detailed breakdown of the time I worked on your behalf and exactly what I did. I pay this bill from the money you gave me as a retainer. When I use most of your retainer, I’ll ask you to add money to this account to cover my ongoing services. And, of course, in addition to my professional fee, there are also charges for disbursements (costs) and tax.

"How long will my divorce take?"
This depends on the complexity of your case and on how well you and your former spouse are able to agree on things. If no issues are contested, the court will process your application for divorce in about three months. If you or your former spouse contest many issues, it could take a year or more to resolve them or to set down your case for trial.

"What will my entire divorce cost?"
I know this is important to you – and it is to me, too. Once I know what your divorce involves, I will then give you a ballpark figure. Here’s the important bottom line: the cost and time required to finalise your divorce are the direct result of how quickly you and your former spouse agree on the legal matters that we must address. The sooner you agree, the sooner your divorce is final and the more money you keep for yourselves. The longer it takes to reach agreement – or, if we have to go to trial – the more money you give to the lawyers.

I will estimate costs for you in stages. As we prepare to enter the next stage of your case, I will tell you what that stage is likely to cost. Further, I will not do anything that will cost a lot of money without first discussing it with you.

A rough guesstimate of the costs for a divorce is as follows:

  • If there are some issues, but they are resolved fairly easily, the cost could be from $4,000 to $7,000.

  • If there are major issues, or difficulty in resolving the issues, the cost could be from $7,000 to $10,000.

  • If your case goes to court, the cost will likely be at least $10,000, and possibly over $25,000.

  • If your case goes to trial, the cost will likely be at least $50,000.

To avoid paying a retainer or to keep control of your divorce, you may want to consider my Coaching Services.

"Do you keep me up to date on what’s going on?"
Yes. I want you to know what’s happening in your case. One way I do this is to send you a copy of all correspondence I send or receive on your behalf. Also, any time you have a question about your case, you’re always welcome to call me.

"What are the chances you will agree to things I don’t want?"
None. Clients often worry that I will enter into an agreement – or make a commitment – that they do not want to make. I will agree to something on your behalf only after you and I discuss it – and only after I have a clear understanding of precisely what you want me to do

"What other services do you offer?"
I offer a full range of family law and divorce services, including services related to pre-divorce planning, separation and divorce, child custody and access, property division, child and spousal support, restraining orders and non-harassment orders, marriage and cohabitation agreements, same sex cohabitation, exclusive possession of the matrimonial home, changing your support payments, changing your child custody and access arrangements, uncontested divorces, negotiated settlements, advocacy at all levels of court, paternity, annulments, tax aspects of separation and divorce, solving post-divorce problems, and opinions of validity of a foreign divorce. If you have questions or concerns in these areas, please ask.

"What about after our first meeting?"
At our first meeting, I’ll ask you to do your “homework.” To represent you properly, I need a lot of information. Much of it relates to your finances because we’re looking for a fair way to divide your property. I’ll provide you with a financial statement to fill out, plus an instruction booklet.

In addition, I often need other information, depending on the issues in your case. For example, I may need you to give me a chronology of your marriage. I may ask you to keep a journal of all relevant events. If spousal support is at issue, I will ask you to complete a spousal support questionnaire. If custody is at issue, I will ask you to give me additional information about your children, and their care and schooling.

But first things first. Whatever information I need, I’ll make it as easy as possible for you to provide it, with the hope of relieving the stress on you and your children.

"What’s the first step?"
Please realise that until we actually begin your divorce, your spouse could be hiding money, emptying your bank accounts, and doing other things without your knowledge or consent. So while I’m not trying to scare you, it is important that you take steps to protect yourself. And the sooner, the better.

So call today, won’t you? I’ll be happy to help you in every way.

Cordially,

Jeffrey Behrendt

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If you are considering divorce in Ottawa or the surrounding area -- or have already made your decision -- you're invited to email or call us. We'll explain how you can protect your legal rights, reduce the expense of divorce, and protect your children from undue emotional stress. Click here to contact us.
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