Our Family Law Team understands the emotional turmoil and financial reality many people face in matters of family law. We can assist and guide you through the issues and the process of your unique family law situation.
Family law matters most often arise upon the breakdown of a family or when spouses decide to separate. However, family matters can also happen at other significant life events, such as moving in with a romantic/conjugal partner, getting married, or adding a new child to your family.
What we do
We provide advice on a broad range of family law issues including:
- Children, parenting & custody
- Finances, income and child/spousal support
- Property, assets & debts division
- Common-law spouse/ partner, same sex couples, cohabitation
- Cross-border court proceedings, jurisdiction issues
- Enforcement of court orders or agreements
- Changes to or variation of court orders or agreements
- Grandparent access
- Adoption, fertility & assisted-reproduction
- Collaborative family law, mediation, arbitration
- Agreements & contracts for married, non-married, common-law and separated couples
- Child protection
- and more.
Who we are
Our unique team
Our team consists of four lawyers from a range of backgrounds and years of experience:
- Gordon R. Kelly, Partner
- Stacey O’Neill, Associate
- Michelle Axworthy (formerly Michelle Rogers), Associate
- Kaitlin Gauvin, Associate
Our team has over 50 years’ experience in providing advice on family law issues, both inside and outside of the court process. We provide effective representation and advice in negotiations and courtroom litigation, particularly in relation to complex family issues. We focus on solutions and results for you and your family.
We have extensive experience in negotiating and drafting agreements, both for separating and non-separating spouses/couples. We have lawyers who practice collaborative family law, provide mediation and arbitration services.
We have experience representing clients before various levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia (Family Division), the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada, the Family Court in the Province of Nova Scotia, and the Federal Court of Canada.
Our team commits to providing high quality work and a collaborative approach to best meet our clients’ needs. We believe the benefits of our approach are threefold. First, our lawyers commit to a high level of organization and work product for each client’s matter. Second, we strive to reduce costs by distributing the work efficiently and seamlessly. Third, our lawyers can draw upon each other’s experiences, rather than work in isolation, to enhance the legal advice and services we provide.
As one of the largest law firms in Halifax practicing family law, we are also able to offer our clients the benefits of a full-service law firm. Often family matters may overlap into the areas of law, such as real estate, criminal, wills & estates, corporate/business, or employment. Our team works closely with our other practice groups for our client’s best advantage.
What to expect
For new clients, we first meet at an initial consultation at our office. You can call or email us to schedule your initial consultation. Before we can confirm the consultation, we will need to complete a conflicts search and our staff will ask you for certain information about your matter. The conflicts search is required by law and for your protection. If the conflicts search is clear, our staff will then schedule your initial consultation with one of our lawyers and provide you with a questionnaire to complete to provide us with further information about your matter. This information helps focus our initial consultation on the issues which directly affect your situation.
We offer the first hour of the initial consultation at a fee of $100.00 (plus HST) and for time spent beyond the one (1) hour, we will charge the lawyer’s hourly rate plus HST. Call us to find out more.
After our initial consultation, you may want to retain our firm to represent you. In a full retainer, we will represent you in all aspects of your legal matter including, communications/negotiations with the opposing side, communications with the court, written and oral submissions before the court or mediation, engagement of experts (where applicable), witness preparation, evidence and document preparation, and more. We will provide you with a detailed retainer letter setting out the specific terms of our retainer and ask you to pay a retainer fee, which is held in trust and applied to our statements of account as rendered. Our statements of account are primarily based on our hourly rate and the time spent working on your matter, plus disbursements and HST.
Unbundled services & legal coaching
After our initial consultation, you may decide you want to represent yourself but want to retain us to provide legal services on specific tasks. This is often called unbundled legal services, limited-scope retainers or legal coaching (“unbundled services”).
In appropriate cases, our lawyers can often offer unbundled services to clients. If so, when you meet with one of our lawyers, we will explain the nature of this arrangement with you and document the specific tasks you are hiring us for in an agreement which we will both sign. Examples of specific tasks you might want to hire our firm for are:
- advice on the availability of alternative means of resolving the dispute
- evaluation of your self-diagnosis of the case
- advising on your legal rights and responsibilities
- guidance and procedural information for filing and serving court documents
- reviewing documents you prepared for court or the other side, or vice versa
- preparing and drafting court documents, including statements, affidavits, motions and draft court orders
- factual investigation
- professional or expert referrals
- legal research and analysis
- ghost writing documents for court or the other side
- planning for court appearances, negotiations, settlement conferences
- strategic and procedural advice
- standby telephone assistance during negotiations/settlement conferences
- representing you in court for a specific matter or court appearance
Generally, our lawyers will charge their hourly rate for unbundled services, but in some instances we may be able to offer a flat fee. Fees will be discussed when you meet with a lawyer from our team and will be agreed upon before we do any work on your matter.
Flat fee services
We are pleased to offer a flat fee for specific legal services. As each situation is unique, when you meet with one of our lawyers, they will discuss with you whether your situation will qualify for a flat fee, what the specific fee amount will be, and which specific legal services we will provide. See below for our estimates of flat fees for specific legal services.
Uncontested Divorce with a written agreement ($1,000.00 to $2,000.00)
If you have a properly executed and signed written agreement dealing with all issues arising from the breakdown of your marriage which does not require updating, amendments or variation, and would like an uncontested divorce in Nova Scotia, we expect to charge between $1,000.00 – $2,000.00, plus disbursements & HST to complete the court application. If there are no children involved in your divorce, we expect your fee would fall on the lower end of the range. If there are children involved in your divorce, we expect your fee would fall on the higher end of the range as additional court forms are required by the court in these cases which take additional time to prepare and complete.
Uncontested Divorce without a written agreement ($1,500.00 to $5,000.00)
If the issues in your matter are reasonably straight-forward and you have agreed on all the issues arising from the breakdown of your marriage with the opposing side and would like an uncontested divorce in Nova Scotia, we expect to charge between $1,500.00 – $5,000.00, plus disbursements & HST to complete the written agreement and the court application. This fee covers drafting the terms agreed to into a written agreement and the execution of same. It does not include negotiations involved in coming to the settlement or preparation of disclosure exchanged in reaching the settlement. Where your flat fee falls in this range will depend on the number of issues and court forms involved in your particular matter. For instance, if there are no children involved and both parties are only seeking a divorce and no other relief, we expect your flat fee would fall on the lower end of the range.
Uncontested matters involving non-married persons
If you have a situation equivalent to the above with respect to all issues arising from either (i) your separation from your common-law spouse and/or (ii) all issues relating to a child you share with someone, we can discuss tailoring our flat fees for uncontested divorces detailed above to your situation. For non-divorce matters, the disbursements, particularly court fees, are generally less.
Uncontested Adoption ($1,500.00 to $2,500.00)
If you are adopting a child with consent(s), we expect to charge between $1,500.00 to $2,500.00, plus disbursements & HST to complete the court application. Where your flat fee falls in this range will depend on the particular circumstances of your matter. This fee includes representing you at the court hearing required at the end of the adoption proceeding.
While we have provided a range of estimated flat fees above which we expect to charge for specific services, we cannot confirm whether your specific matter and circumstances will qualify for a flat fee until we meet with you. Each flat fee must be agreed to by the client and the lawyer in a services agreement. If you are looking for a flat fee, please ensure you discuss this with the lawyer when you meet.