Need help resolving a Family Law negotiation or dispute?

We understand that nothing is more important than family and nothing is more devastating than a family breakdown, especially when children are involved. We know the effect it can have on your life, especially your work,  your health and your assets.

The Family Law system may be your first contact with the legal system. It need not be daunting and confusing. We will support and guide you through this difficult and emotional time and work with you to protect your interests. At each stage we explain the process and your options and the best way forward to help you make well informed decisions.

We pride ourselves on our empathetic, caring and understanding approach paired with a resolute determination to achieve the best possible result for you in the shortest possible time.

If you feel that, despite your best efforts, the difficulties in your relationship have become insurmountable, contact us.

How can we help you?

Principal Solicitor Anthony Steel’s Family Law experience includes parenting, property, and spousal maintenance negotiations and disputes.

Anthony offers free initial telephone advice and initial face to face advice for a minimal fee.

Should you wish to represent yourself in mediation, litigation, or arbitration, Anthony will give you advice and assistance tailored to your situation.

What does Family Law involve?

Family Law work includes advising and representing you in areas dealt with by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Courts) and Child Support. These include:

  • Property settlement and spousal maintenance;
  • Care of children, including parental responsibility, who children live with, if conditions should apply to a time spent with children; relocation of children, and location and recovery of children;
  • Child support and child maintenance;
  • Contravention and enforcement of Family Courts Orders;
  • Divorce and nullity.

How much will litigation cost me?

It is impossible to estimate the cost of family law litigation as it is not possible to anticipate what work is going to be required. The amount of professional costs and disbursements will vary depending on factors including:-

  • how you choose to communicate with your solicitor, due to your preference or distance from your solicitor;
  • the other party or their solicitors’ obstinacy/aggression/willingness to compromise/negotiate/mediate/conciliate;
  • whether an expert report(s) and/or valuation(s) is/are required;
  • whether agreement regarding market values can be reached amicably;
  • whether an Independent Children’s Lawyer is appointed and their fees;
  • how many and what type of superannuation funds you have;
  • whether an agent must be retained due to the matter being listed at/transferred to a Court Registry distant from your solicitor (e.g. when the other party who is the the children’s primary carer lives a long way from your solicitor);
  • whether a barrister must be briefed to provide written advice and/or represent you at an interim and/or final hearing; and
  • the number and complexity of the legal/factual issues, letters, court documents, conferences, meetings, hearings, etc.

Reaching an amicable settlement is always much less costly than proceeding to litigation. However, if negotiation breaks down and the other side starts litigation, your options may be reduced to:-

  1. agreeing to the orders they are seeking; or
  2. filing court documents in response.

Withdrawing from proceedings in the Family Courts may have costs consequences. If one party discontinues, the Court generally sets the matter down for a hearing to give the other party an opportunity to file an application that some or all their legal costs be paid by the discontinuing party.

What are disbursements?

Disbursements are payments we make to others on your behalf, including:-

  • Court fees (inc filing fees);
  • Conduct money. Subpoena recipients may charge additional fees for locating and copying documents;
  • Process server fees;
  • Law agent’s fees;
  • Search fees; 
  • Superannuation Information Request processing fees;
  • Barrister’s fees;
  • Valuations (usually equally shared);
  • Expert Reports (usually equally shared);
  • Independent Childrens’ Lawyer (usually equally shared)

The Family Courts’ fees are available on the FCFCOA website.

If you hold a Government concession card or can demonstrate financial hardship you can apply for:-

  • exemption from Court filing fees fees; or
  • a reduced Court filing fee (e.g. for a joint application for divorce).

The FCFCOA website includes guidelines for exemption of court fees.

Goods and Service Tax is payable on most (but not all) disbursements.

Sundries include postage and photocopying.

Can I pay my legal costs from my Family Law property settlement payout?

If you are a party to a property dispute and we agree to payment of our professional costs from your property settlement payout:-

  • If the property orders you seek involve a payout to you, you must agree in writing that any outstanding legal costs are to be deducted from the payout;
  • you must nonetheless pay our anticipated disbursements into our trust account in advance;
  • If it becomes evident that your payout may be insufficient to pay our costs, we may cease work on your matter until our costs and disbursements (outstanding and anticipated) are paid or secured.
  • We may require registration of a charge, caveat or priority notice on the title of your real estate to secure our legal costs.

On request, we will review your matter to ascertain whether we agree to deferral of payment of our professional costs pending settlement.

We may periodically ask you to pay into our trust account amounts for anticipated disbursements and/or costs.

Family Law matters are charged at either a fixed fee or an hourly rate, depending on the type of matter and level of complexity. Fixed rates apply for a divorce and for drafting a financial, superannuation, parenting, spousal, child maintenance, or child support agreement.

Travel and work not requiring solicitor’s skills is charged at a substantially lower rate and waiting, undertaking research or reading correspondence is very rarely charged for.

When do we retain barristers, agents and other experts?

We usually appear or arrange for a solicitor-agent to appear at directions hearings, callovers, interim hearings, divorce hearings, contravention application hearings and undefended final hearings.

If we decide to engage a barrister, a solicitor-agent or other expert on your behalf, we are responsible for payment of their fees. Unless they have agreed to accept payment after settlement, we require that you pay such costs into our trust account in advance.

A barrister may also be engaged to provide specific advice, advise generally and/or appear as your advocate at a final hearing, or possibly at an interim or undefended hearing

We may consider engaging an agent when:

  • we are unable to appear in Court on a particular date due to prior commitments; or
  • the Court attendance is a short, straightforward, uncontroversial or an administrative directions hearing; or
  • the agent’s offices are closer than ours to the Court Registry and it would be more cost effective for an agent to appear (taking into account the cost of travel).

We would only engage an agent without your approval in urgent circumstances.

Before doing work for you, a barrister will usually give us a written fee disclosure/agreement between us and the barrister. This may require that we pay the barrister for part or all of the period for which the final hearing is listed even if the matter is settled on or before the first day of the final hearing.

We may need to engage other experts for your case including forensic accountants (e.g. to value a business), valuers (e.g. of superannuation, real estate, antiques, collectables, vintage cars, boats and motorbikes) or medical practitioners (including doctors, specialists, psychiatrists and psychologists).

We would only engage an expert with your consent or to comply with a Court Order.  Experts are generally (but not invariably) appointed jointly by the parties to provide independent expert evidence. It is usual for the parties to equally share a joint expert’s costs. Experts charge for appearing in Court as expert witnesses.

What is an Independent Children’s Lawyer?

In children’s matters, the Court usually appoints a solicitor who has completed a course qualifying them as an Independent Children’s Lawyer (an ICL) who represents the children’s best interests. The Court decides if it is in the children’s best interests that an ICL be appointed. An ICL’s professional costs are on a scale determined by legislation and the Court usually (but not invariably) orders the ICL’s costs to be equally shared between the parties.

What is a Costs Order?

A Costs Order requires one party to proceedings to pay the legal costs and disbursements incurred by another party.

The general rule in Family Law matters is that each party pays their own legal costs. You may recover your costs against other parties (party-party costs) in certain very limited circumstances (such as enforcement or contravention proceedings) but in practice costs orders are very rarely made in the Family Law matters and it is extremely unlikely that you will recover any of your legal costs.

If a costs order is made it will usually be after the conclusion of your matter and for only part of the total of our tax invoices. Party-party costs are calculated according to a scale in the Family Law Rules. Applying the rates in the scale of costs to the items set out in our tax invoices invariably results in a lower amount than our tax invoice. So even in the unlikely event that you obtain a costs order, you will not recover your entire costs.

If the Court orders the other party to pay your legal costs and disbursements, this does not divest you of your responsibility to pay us the amounts in our tax invoices. You are required to pay our costs and disbursements between the conclusion of your matter and receipt of any monies in accordance with any costs order. Any monies paid to you in accordance with a costs order is applied towards any unpaid portion of our tax invoices. 

In certain circumstances (for example, if you fail to appear for a hearing or you fail to comply with a Court order), you may be ordered to pay the other person’s costs, which would be in addition to your own costs. If a costs order is made against you, i.e. you are ordered to pay the other person’s legal costs and disbursements, you must also pay our costs and disbursements.

When does the Court consider a matter urgent?

In busy periods the Court’s waiting periods may significantly increase.

Many litigants consider their matter sufficiently urgent to justify the Court giving them priority over other matters. However, due to severe constraints on the Court’s resources, the Registrar will generally only be satisfied that a matter is urgent if a litigant convinces them in an affidavit that a refusal to allow them to jump the queue would for example put a child in harm’s way.

The Court can reduce court waiting times in parenting cases where the Registrar is satisfied by:

  • the filing of an affidavit; and
  • a letter drawing the Registrar’s attention to the parts of the affidavit setting out the need for urgency; and
  • an explanation by the solicitor with carriage of the matter as to the need for urgent treatment.

This generally requires the solicitor to personally file the documents at the Court Registry at a time when the Duty Registrar is available and wait in the Court building, sometimes all day, until the Duty Registrar has time to ask them questions to assist them to determine whether the matter should be treated as urgent. This process can significantly increase legal costs.

Can we help with related legal actions?

Contact us for assistance to resolve legal issues arising during or after resolution of your Family Law matter, including:

  • registering or removing caveats, priority notices or charges on property;
  • Conveyancing for property sales and transfers including discharging mortgages and re-financing;
  • drafting a new Will.

How long do we retain your file?

We retain your file (including court and other documents) in storage for at least seven years after your matter has been finalised. Documents held in safe custody will not be destroyed after seven years.

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