One of the most common concerns that clients have when they separate is ‘how much does a family lawyer cost?’.
The legal costs you will incur depend upon the complexity of your case, the issues in dispute, and how your former spouse conducts negotiations or court proceedings. If things are relatively amicable and straightforward, your legal costs can usually be well-contained.
If your case needs to go all the way to a final hearing before a Judge, private legal costs can far exceed $60,000. Luckily, only a small percentage of cases that go to court end in a final hearing, with most cases settling along the way. Importantly, is necessary in most cases for parties to at least attempt to resolve their family law settlement out of court via alternative dispute resolution processes such as mediation. In most cases, you cannot issue court proceedings without first attempting to resolve things through mediation.
In accordance with the Family Law Rules all lawyers are required to assist clients to resolve family law disputes according to law and as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible.
All lawyers are required to disclose their fees and the estimated cost of representation in each individual matter. An estimate can only be given once your lawyer has a sound understanding of what is required in your personal circumstances.
How much do family lawyers charge?
Family lawyers generally charge an hourly rate between $300 and $600 for their advice and representation, depending on their level of experience and expertise, and geographical location.
Newly admitted lawyers with limited experience generally charge a lower fee, whereas experienced and highly qualified solicitors charge a higher hourly fee in accordance with their level of expertise, training, and experience. Fees are generally higher in capital cities compared to regional and rural areas.
Some lawyers charge fixed fees for advice and representation. This is usually only possible if the matter is relatively straightforward and likely to be resolved promptly and without ongoing negotiations or court proceedings.
How can I keep my family law costs down?
Clients can take the following steps to contain their legal fees:
Speak to an Accredited Family Law Specialist
- Retaining an Accredited Specialist means you get expert advice from a lawyer who is dedicated to understanding family law and who has significant experience and training in that area. In this sense, Accredited Specialists can be likened to specialist medical practitioners.
- Getting advice from an Accredited Specialist means you will receive accurate advice and strategy from the outset of your dispute which can save you significant time, costs, and stress in the long run.
- An Accredited Specialist is a lawyer who is recognised as an expert in their field by the Law Society of New South Wales.
- Accredited Specialists have a minimum of 5 years ‘full-time practice experience’ in their chosen area of specialisation. Accredited Specialists must also pass a series of comprehensive examinations and maintain a higher degree of professional development each year than their non-specialist counterparts
Consider alternative dispute resolution
- Mediation is an important part of most family law disputes. In fact, unless there are exceptional circumstances, parties must attempt mediation before either of them can issue a court application seeking parenting or property orders.
- Resolving your dispute at mediation will likely save you considerable time and avoid the delays associated with Court proceedings. Access to experienced family law mediators is relatively cost-effective and, if successful, will likely be far less expensive than going to Court.
- To avoid increasing your legal fees, it’s important to listen to your lawyer and provide them with the information and instructions they need without delay. Leaving your lawyer to chase you for information and follow you up is likely to increase your costs.
- Each time you need to speak to or email your lawyer, make a list of the questions you want to ask and check them off as you speak or write.
- Make sure you have a clear understanding of what is required of you and the next steps in your matter. Your lawyer should explain things in plain English, and you should be aware of what is occurring in your case at each stage.
- Surround yourself with appropriate support. Most family lawyers are highly empathetic and genuinely want the best outcomes for their clients. However, it’s important to remember that lawyers are not generally trained in psychology and are not well-qualified to provide you with emotional support. They are there to help you understand and work through the legal issues of your case as quickly and efficiently as possible. If possible, it is helpful to engage separate professional support to help you through the emotional side of separation, as well as leaning on your support network. Separating is one of the most stressful life events you will endure, so it’s important to get the support you need and deserve at this time in your life.
If you would like to speak to a Wollongong Family Lawyer or Shoalhaven Family Lawyer about your family law issues, please contact us to arrange an obligation-free initial consultation in person, by telephone, or online via Zoom.