Separation can be stressful enough without the additional worry about the legal fees involved in reaching a property settlement or resolving a parenting dispute. The fear of legal expenses, however, should not prevent you from obtaining quality advice from an experienced family lawyer.

Although family law proceedings can be costly, ensuring you get proper legal advice is critical and can help reduce stress by providing you with an understanding of your rights and what’s involved in your family law matter. In our experience, having a family lawyer represent you can help you receive a more favourable property settlement outcome compared to parties who represent themselves.

If you are concerned about being able to afford a good family lawyer, read our top tips to help you save money on your family law fees.

Get legal advice early

Obtaining advice early in proceedings is important so that you and your lawyer can devise a plan for what your matter will involve. At the end of each meeting with your lawyer, if they have not already told you so, ask about the next steps in your matter so that you remain up to date with proceedings.

Make a list of questions you want answered before every appointment

Having a list of questions and concerns regarding your matter can streamline your appointment and help eliminate the need for you to call your lawyer after your appointment to ask questions you may have forgotten. Remember, each time you call your lawyer could trigger additional charges. You may also want to send your questions to your lawyer before your meeting.

Take notes of discussions with your family lawyer

Taking notes during your meetings and telephone calls with your lawyer will help you recall what was discussed between you, eliminating the need to ask your lawyer the same question twice.

Prepare your financial documents

You will usually be required to provide 12 months’ worth of bank statements, including savings accounts, all mortgage statements, your last three tax returns, and recent payslips, including current superannuation statements. We recommend sending a request for you and your ex-partner’s superannuation fund details ahead of time, if possible, which will remove this extra step for your lawyer. This is part of what we call ‘financial disclosure’ when it comes to financial settlement.

Limit your questions to only legal issues

We empathise that family law proceedings can become stressful and emotional. Your family lawyer will support you to the best of their ability, however, they are only qualified to give legal, not emotional advice. Keep your discussion to legal issues only, which can help keep your meeting shorter and reduce your fees.

If you need emotional support, we recommend you arrange an appointment with a counsellor and ask them if you are eligible for free counselling or rebate through Medicare for counselling fees, or alternatively we have a list of trusted professionals we can recommend.

Try to remain reasonable when undertaking settlement negotiations

When it comes to family law proceedings, both parties will need to make concessions. It is more productive and cost effective to resolve matters sooner by conceding some issues, which may seem to appear important at the time. Avoid being unreasonable or threatening litigation as a way of punishing your ex-partner. If you continue to be unreasonable or refuse to negotiate with your ex-partner, you will also be punishing your wallet!

Remember, there is no ‘winner’ or ‘loser’ in this.

Avoid incessantly calling your family lawyer

We understand waiting to hear from the other party may be nerve racking, however your lawyer will contact you as soon as possible with any replies from the other party. Constantly calling your lawyer to find out if you have a reply from the other may increase your legal fees. If you only have a basic message you want to pass onto your lawyer, it is best to leave the message with their legal assistant.

Provide your family lawyer with any information they request

Your lawyer will most likely request written material to prepare court documents (such as information for an affidavit). Providing your lawyer with written material will result in greater efficiency in preparing any legal documentation and as a result, reduced legal fees.

Organise all documents before sending to your family lawyer

Before providing your lawyer with any requested documents or information, ensure you organise these documents in chronological order and make a list reflecting all the documentation provided. Providing an electronic version of the list and documents where possible, can also save the law clerk’s time and help keep your legal fees down.

Finally, respond to your lawyer’s requests in a timely manner!

We cannot stress how important this is! Lawyers have deadlines they must meet, including responding to the other side’s requests. If you don’t want to pay extra for your lawyer to keep following up with you or for unnecessary appeals and motions, respond to their requests as soon as possible. You also do not want to give the other side an excuse to claim for legal costs they have incurred because of your delays, so always ensure you respond to your lawyer’s requests promptly.

As you can see, there are numerous ways you can help keep your legal fees as low as possible. Our family lawyers will be happy to discuss and advise you on what you can do to help achieve this while managing your matter.

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on 02 6230 0199 or email [email protected].