What can I expect my costs to be?
Once we have had an opportunity to assess your matter, we will provide you with an estimate of the likely range of fees you may incur. In the event your matter proceeds to Court we are obliged to provide you with cost notifications at various stages of the process.
Two factors which influence the timely conduct of any case
1. The attitude of your estranged partner. If they refuse to co-operate and point blank refuse to answer our letters, fail to instruct their solicitor properly or persistently breach requests for financial disclosure documents, then the running of your case will be negatively impacted and inevitably a resolution delayed. Your costs will escalate. Where one party has mental health issues, is a narcissist or an addict, then this will inevitably impact the whole proceedings. Illiteracy is also a big factor because people who are low in literacy find the whole process extra intimidating and cannot follow written instructions. Solicitors often face this issue when their client’s estranged partner is unrepresented (does not have his or her own lawyer) or takes months to get a lawyer.
2. Your co-operation. A successful solicitor/client relationship requires cooperation on both sides. Following are various things you can do to help us as your solicitor to make your case run smoothly and less expensively.
Tips for Lowering your Legal Costs
Educate yourself about the Family Court process
The Family Court website has very helpful information on for example,
You will see there are mentions to pre-action procedures. Unless exceptions apply, you must go through the pre-action procedures and try to resolve or settle your case without accessing the court – via negotiation, conciliation or mediation. As you will know from the media, the Family Court is in crisis – too few judges and too many litigants. It really wants you to give your best shot at sorting out your matter yourself.
Give full and clear instructions and get in the driver’s seat
To represent your interests successfully your solicitor needs a lot of information. Your solicitor must ask probing questions which you may find uncomfortable. Being clear and truthful about your marital or de facto history and what you are trying to achieve, will help your solicitor provide better advice. Tell your solicitor everything: facts which may not seem important to you may have significant legal consequences. No surprises. Also don’t think your solicitor is there to tell you what to do: you are there to tell them what you want which will, in turn, have to be tempered by the legal advice you are given.
Be honest and lawful
It is unwise to lie to your solicitor or to expect your solicitor to uphold a mistruth. Solicitors have a duty not to mislead. For instance, if you supply false information in an affidavit or false evidence during a case and you do not allow your solicitor to correct the misinformation, your solicitor must withdraw from your case. So you could end up without proper representation and have the expense of finding a new solicitor. If you withhold financial information, and this comes to light, the court takes the view that you are generally lying and you will detrimentally affect your outcome.
Before you speak with or visit a solicitor, it is a good idea to write down a chronology of your matter – dates and what happened on them. Also, think about any questions you may have and provide the contact details of all persons involved. You will also need to gather documents and show them to your solicitor. Being prepared will save your solicitor’s time and thus help to reduce your costs.
Follow instructions/respond to requests quickly
Follow your solicitor’s instructions or requests as quickly as possible. For instance, your solicitor may request more information or documentation. Use or ask for a checklist of what you need to provide and when. If you solicitor has to make further requests/chase you up, this will affect your fees.
Understand the fees and costs
Solicitors are required by law to tell you about their fees and other expenses (called disbursements) before they start working for you. This is known as the duty of disclosure. My firm is transparent about our fees, and because we do not have expensive premises, our fees are very competitive.
Our professional indemnity insurer counsels us to check a client’s solvency/how they are going to pay their legal fees before agreeing to act for them.
Read Legal Advice very carefully and ask questions
The law is complex with lots of unfamiliar words and processes. If you are confused or have any questions, ask your solicitor for an explanation as soon as possible. This will minimise the likelihood of misunderstandings further down the track. The Family Court also has a glossary of legal words used in court: http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/reports-and-publications/publications/getting-ready-for-court/legal-words-used-in-court
Send us a quick reply, please
By way of reciprocation, equally, when we text or email you, please send us a quick reply that simply says ‘Noted’ or other response with which you are comfortable. That way, we know you are hearing us and that we are communicating with you. We will not charge for reading such an email or text.
Don’t hire a dog and bark yourself
There is an old saying, ‘don’t hire a dog and bark yourself’. There is no point in paying legal fees then not allowing your solicitor to do his or her job. This includes being your representative and doing all negotiations on your behalf. While the family law process is occurring and your dispute is being resolved, it is really critical to understand that except for urgent matters relating to arrangements for children, that it is not helpful to speak with your spouse. They know all of your weak points (and more so if you have been in a controlling and coercive family violence environment) and your spouse will white ant any confidence you have built up and weaken your resolve that a lawyer or solicitor find a solution for you.
Understand that you and your lawyer are a team.
What can you do in preparation for your first meeting with us?
One of the major concerns voiced by clients is the cost of litigation. We are often asked by our clients what they can do themselves to keep costs down.
If you are considering making an appointment with a lawyer, there are a number of things you can prepare that can save us time and you money.
For the first appointment:
You should ensure that you have the following information available to provide your lawyer:
- Full name, address and date(s) of birth of you, the other party and any children
- The date you began living together
- Date of marriage
- Place of marriage
- Date of separation
- The living arrangements of your children (if applicable)
- Details of your assets and liabilities, including superannuation (owned solely and jointly)
You should endeavour to bring the following documents with you:
- Your marriage certificate
- Birth certificates for the children (if applicable)
- Any previous court documentation, especially court orders
- Any letters or documents from your former partner or their solicitor
Don’t worry if you initially can’t provide the information or you don’t have access to the documents. We will be able to help you obtain these details and get the documents we need to properly advise you.
It is also important to understand that typically the court does not let you or your partner launch straight into litigation and certain Pre-Action Procedures must be followed which include full disclosure of each party’s assets and liabilities and financial resources and more often than not attendance at mediation. Please refer to: