How to minimise legal costs

Your legal fees

Solicitors are required to provide written costs agreements to clients explaining how they charge. Family law solicitors generally charge by time. A costs agreement may provide for the charging of time spent by both the solicitor and also support staff such as clerks, paralegals, and secretaries. Generally, disbursements (such as search fees, registration and filing fees, faxing and photocopying etc) are also charged. GST is payable on legal bills.

Family law solicitors cannot predict exactly how long it may take for a family law settlement to be agreed. This largely depends on the attitude taken by the spouses. A family law solicitor can therefore not exactly estimate the likely fees to be incurred. A family law solicitor, however, should be able to provide a range of likely costs.

When offers of settlement are made, consider the likely future costs if the offer is not accepted. If the likely future costs are similar or greater to the differences in offers made in respect of you and your spouse, you should accept the offer.

Settle with your partner without going to court

You will save significant legal costs by reaching agreement without going to court. Settlement can be reached through private discussion, counselling, mediation, or by negotiations through lawyers.

Generally, agreements will be documented by the making of consent orders in the Family Court or the Federal Magistrate’s Court. There is no need for a court appearance when making consent orders.

Once court proceedings are commenced

Court proceedings involve significant time by lawyers in the following preparation and presentation of your case. Costs can be controlled in the following ways:

  • provide your solicitor promptly with documents and information requested by them;
  • seek realistic orders;
  • most family law matters commenced in a court are still resolved by agreement. Continue to negotiate agreement through private discussion, negotiations through solicitors, counselling, mediation;
  • use each court event to explore settlement;
  • make genuine offers of settlement during proceedings in writing. The court will require that you do so;
  • be sure that you and your solicitor comply with all court directions and rules. Failure to do so may allow the other party to seek an order for costs against you;
  • most family law cases are settled on the basis that each party pays their own costs. When a matter proceeds to a final hearing before a judge, generally each party pays their own costs. In exceptional circumstances, the court may order that one party pay some or all of the costs of the other. These circumstances include when one party has declined to accept an offer of settlement but receives a less favourable judgement from the court. Costs may be ordered when the conduct of a spouse’s case has led to additional and unnecessary costs to the other.

 

Family law legal costs can be controlled by reaching prompt and sensible negotiated agreement.

When considering offers from their spouses, it is important that the other spouse consider the future likely legal costs if the offer is not accepted.

 

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