Need help resolving a Family Law property or parenting negotiation or dispute?

FAMILY LAW

At Mid Mountains Legal, we understand that nothing is more important than family.

We also understand that nothing is more devastating than a family breakdown. We know the effects this has on your life, especially on your work,  your health and your assets.

For many people, Family Law is the first contact they have with the legal system. Yet it comes at a daunting, confusing and emotional time in their lives.

When children are involved, the situation can become even more emotionally wrought.

Our approach to Family Law is based on caring and understanding, coupled with an absolute determination to fight for your right to get the fairest result possible.

We have a male and a female lawyer who will explain each step to help you to understand every stage of the process. Early advice helps to ensure that well informed and well considered decisions are made.

So if you recognise that your relationship is facing insurmountable difficulties, contact us at Mid Mountains Legal. We can help you through a difficult time in your life.

How can we help you?

Principle Solicitor Anthony Steel is experienced in Family Law including in parenting disputes, property adjustments and spousal maintenance. He is on the NSW Legal Aid Family Law Panel and represents legal aid clients. 

Anthony offers free initial telephone advice, charges a minimal fee for initial person to person advice and for advice regarding self representation and charges a reasonable hourly rate. He charges at a reduced rate for travel. 

On request, Anthony will ascertain the suitability of proposed property litigation for deferral of payment of his professional costs until completion. 

Professional fees for drafting financial and superannuation agreements, child support agreements, parenting plans and divorces are either fixed or capped at reasonable amounts. 

What does Family Law involve?

Family Law work includes advising and representing you in areas dealt with by the Family and Federal Circuit Courts, Child Support legislation and rules.  These include:

  • Property settlement and spousal maintenance;
  • Care of children, including:
    • parental responsibility
    • who children live with
    • who children spend time with; and
    • location and recovery of children; 
  • Child support and child maintenance;
  • penalties for contravention and enforcement of Family Court or Federal Circuit Court Orders;
  • Divorce and nullity.

Can Mid Mountains Legal help with other issues that arise like property sales etc?

We are happy to provide advice relating to other legal issues which arise in the course of your Family Law matter, for example:

  • Wills,
  • Powers of Attorney,
  • Appointments of Enduring Guardian,
  • Advance Care Directives,
  • Defending Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders,
  • Property sales and transfers,
  • Caveats or charges on property,
  • Discharge of mortgages; and
  • Re-financing.

How much will family law litigation cost me? 

It is impossible to estimate our fee in advance in family law work because it is impossible to anticipate what work is going to be required. The amount of your costs and disbursements will vary depending on which of the above costs you ultimately incur and other factors including:-

  • whether you choose to give instructions by email or in person
  • Whether the litigation is in the Federal Circuit Court or the Family Court
  • if your matter commenced in the Family Court and was transferred to the Federal Circuit Court or vice-versa;
  • the number/complexity of the legal/factual issues
  • the obstinacy/aggression/openness to compromise of the other party if unrepresented/their legal representative’s level of expertise/experience and how uncompromising/aggressive/conciliatory the other party’s instructions to their legal representative are 
  • whether an Independent Children’s Lawyer is appointed and how much work they do;
  • whether/how many joint expert reports are obtained by the parties/Court order;
  • whether an agent must be retained due to the matter being listed at/transferred to a Court Registry other than Parramatta (this may happen when the person caring for a child lives a long way from you);
  • whether a barrister must be briefed to provide written advice and/or represent you at a final hearing; and
  • the number and length of letters, court documents, conferences, meetings, hearings, etc.

Reaching an amicable settlement is much less costly than proceeding to litigation. However, if the other side starts litigation, your options are generally reduced to:-

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

Withdrawing/discontinuing Family Law Court proceedings may have costs consequences. If one party withdraws/discontinues, the Court generally sets the matter down for a hearing to permit the other party to file an application that at least a portion of their costs be paid by the discontinuing/withdrawing party.

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

  • If the property orders you seek involve a payout to you and you have outstanding costs, the payout is deposited into our trust account from which we withdraw our outstanding costs.
  • you must nonetheless pay our anticipated disbursements in advance;
  • If it transpires during the course of your matter that your anticipated payout may be insufficient to pay our costs, we may cease doing any further work on your matter until our costs and disbursements (incurred and anticipated) have been paid or secured.
  • we may require your consent to register a charge on the title of your real estate to secure any money owing to us.

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

The fees and charges by the Family and Federal Circuit Courts can be downloaded HERE

When do we retain barristers, agents and other experts?

The solicitor with carriage of your matter usually appears at directions hearings, interim hearings, divorce hearings, contravention application hearings and undefended final hearings.

If we decide to engage a barrister (also referred to as ‘Counsel’), solicitor agent or other expert on your behalf, we will be responsible for payment of their fees. We therefore normally require that you pay sufficient monies into our trust account in advance to pay their anticipated fees.  

The most common examples of engaging Barristers and agents are the engagement of a:-

  • Barrister to provide specific advice, advise generally and/or appear as your advocate at a Final Hearing and in certain circumstances at an Interim or undefended hearing;
  • Barrister or “solicitor-agent” to appear on our behalf at court.

Circumstances in which we may consider engaging an agent include:

  • if we are unable to appear at Court for you on a particular date due to prior commitments; or
  • where the court attendance is a short, straightforward, uncontroversial or administrative directions hearing;
  • where the agent’s offices are located closer to the Court Registry in which your case is being heard than our premises and we consider that it would be more cost effective for the agent to appear (taking into account the cost of travel to and from the Court). 

Other than in cases of urgency, we will not engage an agent without first obtaining your approval.

doing work for you, a Barrister will usually provide us with a written Fee Disclosure and agreement between the Barrister and the firm, a copy of which we will forward to you. You should carefully read this as it may contain clauses requiring you to 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 (most often to value a business), valuers (most often of real estate, antiques or collectables and cars or motorbikes) or medical practitioners (including doctors, specialists, psychiatrists and psychologists). Such appointment will only be made with your prior consent.  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 the expert’s costs. Experts generally charge between $1,100.00 to $2,200.00 per day to appear as expert witnesses.

What are disbursements?

We will incur disbursements on your behalf. Unless you have made alternate arrangements with us, you must deposit sufficient monies in our trust account in advance to pay for anticipated disbursements.  These include:-

* Initiating applications that seek interim AND final orders also attract the interim order fee.  Example:-

  • Initiating Application (Parenting AND Financial) $565 + Interim order application $120 = Total filing fee $685
  • Initiating Application (Parenting OR Financial, Final) $345 + Interim order application $120 = Total filing fee $465

If you hold certain Government concession cards or you can demonstrate financial hardship, you may be eligible for a reduced fee for an application for divorce (both parties must be eligible if filing a joint application) or decree of nullity.

For all other applications you may be eligible for an exemption of fees.  See the Guidelines for exemption of court fees at www.familycourt.gov.au and www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au

Examples of disbursements:-

  • Photocopying (per page) $1.00
  • Facsimile transmissions (outgoing only) (per page) $1.00
  • Conduct money (per subpoena recipient)  (excluding additional document production fees charged by subpoena)   At least $30.00. Subpoena recipients may impose additional administrative fees for locating and copying documents.
  • Process server fees for serving and filing Court documents (estimate only, per attempted service)                                                 $100.00-$150.00
  • Law agents fees (estimate only, per attendance):
    • stamping one document $44.00
    • registering one document $44.00
    • ASIC Company extracts and business name extracts (estimate, per extract) $40.00
    • court filing (per matter) $44.00
    • property settlements at their office $77.00
    • NSW Land Registry Services real estate title searches (estimate, per search) $25.00
  • NSW Land Registry Services copy of dealing searches (estimate, per search) $15.00
  • Document Registration with NSW Land Registry Services (transfers) $142.00
  • Real estate valuations (estimate only, per valuation date per property) $1000.00-$3000.00
  • Expert Reports [incl Business Valuations ] (usually equally shared by parties) $5,000.00-$15,000.00
  • Superannuation Information form (estimate only, per fund, per valuation date) $0-$400
  • Superannuation valuation (estimate only, per fund) $500-$1000
  • Barrister’s fees (estimate only, per day) $2,500.00-$5,000.00
  • Independent Childrens’ Lawyer (usually equally shared by parties) $3,300 – $18,000

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

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 (ICL). The ICL represents the children’s interests. If the Court decides that it is in the children’s best interests that an ICL be appointed, neither party may prevent that appointment. An ICL’s professional costs are on a fixed scale 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” is an order by a Court that requires one party to proceedings to pay the legal costs and disbursements incurred by another party (e.g. if the Court ordered the other party to pay your legal costs).

The general rule in Family Law matters is that each party pays their own legal costs. There is a provision for recovery of your costs against other persons (“party-party costs”) in certain limited circumstances 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 costs.

If a costs order is made it will usually be after the conclusion of your matter and for only a part of the total of our Tax Invoices. Party-party costs are calculated according to the scale in the Family Law Rules. Applying he rates in the scale of costs to work set out in our Tax Invoice usually results in a lower amount than our charges for the same work. 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 those costs and disbursements. If the other party pays you in accordance with a costs order, that money must be applied towards any unpaid portion of our Tax Invoices.

There may be a lengthy delay between the conclusion of your matter and you receiving the money in accordance with the costs order, during which time you will still be required to pay our costs and disbursements in accordance with this Agreement.

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, 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 had time to consider whether the matter should be treated as urgent. All this can increase legal costs by thousands of dollars. 

How long do we retain your file?

When your file is completed and our Tax Invoices have been paid, your file will be placed in storage.

We will retain your file, including any court documents and other documents to which you are entitled, for seven years. 

Documents deposited in safe custody  will not be destroyed after seven years.

 

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