Don’t spend time crashing around on the internet and wondering whether what you have read about family law is right or wrong for you. Come in to see me, an experienced family lawyer (bio), for a free first interview at no obligation to you and let me tell you what the right answers are for your circumstances.
Family Law Free First Interview
There will be no salesman-type hard selling of our services. You will not be asked to make a commitment to us at this free interview. The interview is designed to allow you to see if I am a good fit for what you’re looking for.
At our first free interview I will listen to your problem, provide you my preliminary view on what your legal options are, and give you a cost estimate for the different options. You can then decide what action you would like to take from there.
It’s your life and that of those you love
It’s your life and your family law matter is important to you and those you love – you should speak to a family lawyer who will feel the same way about that.
Separation is a stressful event for everyone. It’s important that you have someone protecting your interests whom you feel comfortable with and you can trust. This is what I aim to be for you.
Yes, I will definitely fight for your rights and strongly represent your interests to get the best result for you in your circumstances. At the same time, I will focus on getting you the best possible result for an affordable cost whilst bearing in mind that going to court is a highly stressful and costly exercise. If I can save you that stress and cost, I will.
Legal expertise and experience
I’m a very experienced family lawyer, and you can be confident that I have helped many clients in situations perhaps not dissimilar to yours.
I practice in all aspects of family law. This includes (but is not limited to) divorce applications, child custody, parenting disputes, relocation issues, domestic violence, cases involving children with special needs, parental conflict, where one parent is alienating the child from the other parent, marriage breakdown, de facto relationship, de facto relationship breakdown, property settlement, financial settlements, binding financial agreements, pre-nuptial agreements, and consent orders.
The steps after separation
As a first option, I usually recommend not rushing into court proceedings and that you try mediation, whether it be for a children’s case or a de facto or marriage property settlement case.
In child custody or parenting dispute cases, it is compulsory to first attempt mediation with your ex-partner before taking Court action. There are some exceptions to this requirement, which can be explained to you at a first free interview.
I can recommend Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners who can take your matter at short notice so that you won’t have to wait 6 weeks or more, as can be the case with some mediation services.
If mediation is successful and you reach an agreement, then the cost of your separation will be far less than if you were to take Court proceedings.
I can put you in touch with mediators who will secure the best chance for you to settle the matter without the need to go to court. Not only will this reduce the financial cost to you, but also the emotional cost and damage to your relationship with your ex-partner. This is particularly important if you are co-parenting a child (or children) together.
If you reach an agreement at mediation with your ex-partner I can then provide advice on whether the agreement reached is fair and along the lines of what a Court would likely order in your situation. After this advice is provided, I would recommend the agreement be made into consent orders in the Family Court to provide you with protection of your legal rights.
If you reach a negotiated agreement with your ex-partner for children’s orders and a property settlement, and would like that made into consent orders, then the estimated legal costs are between $2,750 to $3,300 inc GST, plus a Family Court filing fee of $165.
In some cases there can be additional costs for example, where an actuarial report is required (this can arise when the parties are splitting a defined benefit interest superannuation fund).
Negotiations by lawyers
We understand mediation with your ex-partner may not be the most appropriate approach for you in your circumstances, or maybe you’ve tried mediation previously and it wasn’t successful.
If that is your situation, then I believe in first assisting you to negotiate with your ex-partner either directly, or through their lawyer. This will help us understand what the issues of contention may be in your particular case and allow us to explore a way to settle the matter without the need for Court action.
During negotiations I will conduct appointments either by phone or in person and send letters on your behalf in an effort to achieve a negotiated outcome. I recommend you set an upper limit of legal costs for negotiations to ensure you do not spend good money for no likely outcome. With my family law experience I can usually tell whether your case is capable of resolution without Court action by the time this limit has been reached.
The estimated legal costs for those preliminary negotiations is in the range of $990 to $1,650 inc GST.
If the matter is settled by negotiation this is a very low-cost resolution for you compared with going to court for a decision – and I do like to see whether this can be achieve without going to court.
Going to Court and associated costs
Sometimes parties can’t negotiate a final settlement, or there are a few main issues they just can’t agree on.
In parenting cases, there can be very differing views by each party as to what parenting arrangements are appropriate.
In other cases there may be grounds of urgency, such as a risk one party will dispose of a valuable asset, or risk to children, which means Court action is necessary without negotiating first.
In either circumstance, the next step is to formally file legal proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court or Family Court.
The amount of legal costs in your case will depend on a number of factors. However, in general terms the following issues can affect your legal costs:
- The type of case.
- The complexity of the issues involved.
- The amount which is in dispute between the parties or in other words, whether the parties are opposites in terms of what they want from the case and their concept of what is a fair outcome.
- Whether parties are prepared to enter into negotiations and make compromises to reach a settlement, or otherwise if the case goes to a trial.
Understandably, most clients are anxious to know how much a Court case will cost them. I will always provide, what we consider, reasonable estimates for legal work based on each individual case. I am also prepared to negotiate a fixed fee arrangement to give you some peace of mind.
This is something you can discuss with me in a no obligation free first interview.
Each case in Court progresses in stages, and your total legal fees will depend on what stage is reached before your case resolves. As you can appreciate, a case which resolves after a trial involves substantially more work (and therefore more legal costs) than a case which resolves after a mediation.
The Court charges a filing fee which depends on the type of case such as:
- $465 for an application which seeks parenting OR children’s orders.
- $685 for an application which seeks parenting AND children’s orders.
- $345 to respond to Court documents which have been served on you (where you are the respondent).
- $395 to attend a Conciliation Conference (if you are the applicant).
In some circumstances parties are eligible for exemption from paying the court fee, particularly if you are receiving a means-tested Commonwealth Government pension.
There is also a process server fee incurred as the Court documents once filed, must be physically served on your ex-partner by a process server. This fee is usually $110 inc GST.
The first stage up to the first court date
In terms of the documents to be filed, in a parenting case you will need to have filed an initiating application/response, an affidavit which sets out your evidence of the history of your matter and relevant events, and a separate notice of risk/child abuse.
In a property settlement case you will file an initiating application/response, an affidavit which sets out your evidence of the history of your matter and relevant evidence, and a financial statement which sets out your financial circumstances.
After the documents have been filed with the Court you will receive a first court date.
At the first court date the Judge will make interim orders which detail how your case will progress.
In a parenting case, a Judge will make children’s orders outlining the interim arrangements for time the children will spend with each of the parties.
In a property settlement case, a Judge will make orders about issues such as valuation of assets and disclosure to each other of relevant documents.
A general range of the legal costs for me to prepare these documents and attend the first hearing at Court are from $2,310 to $3,300 inc GST.
If your case is complex then your legal costs will likely be more than this and I will give you some insight into those costs before you are committed to taking them on.
The second stage
For the second stage of your Court case and beyond, the total legal fees will depend on the precise issues in dispute between the parties and the individual circumstances of the particular case.
It is not really possible for a family lawyer to provide you with a reasonable cost estimate of the second stage until the facts in dispute are known. But I can and will provide you with an estimate of the legal costs of the second stage well before you incur any liability to pay these costs.
How long will my case take?
How long your case will take to resolve is another important question most people would like to know the answer to right out of the gate.
This is certainly understandable – most people want to get their family law case resolved as quickly as possible so they can stop paying legal costs and get on with their life.
The dilemma for most family lawyers in answering this question is after an initial meeting, or early in the case, is that as things progress the party on the other side may raise issues which were not expected to be raised in the beginning.
In general terms, the types of cases which can take some time to resolve are:
- Where the goals and expectations of each party to the case are wildly different to one another, meaning they have opposing positions, and opposite ideas of what is a “just and equitable” outcome or what is in the best interests of their children.
- A type of case where the parties’ positions are so incompatible with one another it is a “winner take all” scenario.
An example of a type of case which would take some time to resolve is a parenting case where one parent wants to relocate interstate or overseas with the child. In these cases, there is very little room for negotiation or compromise and consequently they are more likely to go to a trial. Another example would be a situation where one party alleges the other party sexually abused the children of the parties. This is again an “all or nothing” scenario which usually means the case has to be decided by a Judge at trial.
An example of a type of property settlement case which could take some time to resolve is where both parties want to remain living in the matrimonial home. Again, this is a situation where there is very little room for the parties to negotiate. Yet another example is where there is a dispute over whether a de facto relationship exists between the parties. If there is no de facto relationship, the Court does not have jurisdiction to make property settlement orders, so a lot of time and energy in the case will be spent addressing evidence towards the threshold issue. This means the case takes much longer.
Where matters cannot be resolved the case can presently take about 12 months and sometimes more. However, Court statistics indicate that 95% of all cases settle and do not go to full trial. A trial is not a situation that lawyers wish upon their clients, but when parties are unable to reach an agreement there is no alternative.
On the other hand, the types of cases which can be resolved in a shorter amount of time are:
- Where the parties’ respective positions are very close, and there is very little for them to resolve before they have agreed on a settlement.
- Where the two parties still have a good relationship with one another (usually where they are amicably co-parenting children together after separation) and so both are prepared to make compromises to maintain that relationship.
- Where the parties have agreed to a property settlement “in principle” however just need some help working out the dollar values and figures.
An example of a type of parenting orders case which can be resolved in a shorter amount of time is a parenting case where it is agreed the children will live with one parent, and the dispute is over the amount of time the children will spend with another parent (e.g. 4 nights as opposed to 2 nights each fortnight).
An example of a property settlement case which can be resolved in a short amount of time is where the parties are only 10 -15% apart on the settlement split, or in dollar terms the amount of difference between the parties is less than $50,000. Or for example, where the primary issue in the case is whether a certain asset should be included in the asset pool or not, or some other small issue.
Standard time frames
It is very difficult for a lawyer to predict in advance precisely what will occur in your case as each case is different.
However, I can provide you a range of time frames and legal fees based on my own experience of dealing with cases of a similar type to yours.
In my experience, most cases fall in the shorter time frame, or somewhere in the middle of the time frames below:
- For property settlement consent orders, a standard case would take 3-6 months to resolve.
- For contested litigation regarding property settlement or children’s arrangements in the Federal Circuit Court which settles after some court attendances, a Conciliation Conference, or negotiations after a family report, a standard case would take 6-12 months to resolve.
- For contested litigation regarding property settlement and/or children’s arrangements in the Federal Circuit Court which proceeds to a trial, a standard case would take 12 – 18 months to resolve.
- For a complex case in the Family Court for either children’s arrangements or property settlement cases, the amount of time depends on the circumstances of the case and its complexity, however it would take more than 18 months to resolve.
What makes a case complex?
Property settlement cases
Factors which can make a case complex are:
- The type of properties owned by each party, for example if the parties are running a business.
- The complexity of the parties’ asset structure, for example a family trust with corporate trustee, self-managed-superannuation fund or similar.
- Where the parties own assets overseas and there are jurisdictional issues involved.
- The complexity of the factual circumstances of the case. For example, the extent the parties acquired and disposed of property during the relationship.
- Whether there are additional issues to be determined outside of the division of parties’ assets. For example, if there is a dispute over whether a de facto relationship exists, or if one party is out of time to bring Court proceedings, or there is a jurisdictional dispute.
Children’s orders cases
Factors which can make a case complex are:
- Where there are significant issues of domestic violence, drug use, or severe parental conflict.
- If the children involved have disabilities or special needs.
- Cases which involve allegations of serious criminal conduct by one party against the other or against a child, including child sexual abuse.
- Cases where there are multiple parties to the proceedings, e.g. both parents and grandparents are involved.
- Where one parent is actively alienating a child from their relationship with the other parent.
These lists are not exhaustive, and provide a guide only. Ultimately the best way to find out if your case is complex is to speak to me about it.
A divorce application cannot be made unless the parties have been separated for 12 months.
Yes, we can do a fixed fee for a standard divorce application for you.
The Court fee to file a divorce application is $900. You must pay this to the Court irrespective of whether you have a lawyer assisting you.
Some parties may be eligible for a fee reduction and so the filing fee would be $300.
You will need to pay a licensed process server to physically serve the papers on your ex-partner. The process server fee is normally $110 inc GST – and no, you are not permitted to serve documents on your ex-partner yourself.
I can do all the legal work in the preparation of the divorce application for you for a fixed fee of $990 inc GST. This does not extend to an attendance at the divorce hearing which in many cases is not necessary. (This fee assumes that, in the case of married couples, you can provide a marriage certificate).
The Court publishes a guide on how to do a divorce yourself. Most divorces are straightforward and are largely an administrative process.
We always encourage clients to review this guide to see if they feel confident making their own divorce application. It is our experience however that many client’s start out attempting this themselves but find it too much of a burden . See how you go with this, but if you find it too difficult then call me and I will be happy to schedule a free first interview to discuss your application.
If you have children under 18 years of age, then you will need to attend the divorce hearing. If you do not have children then you do not need to attend.
However, sometimes there can be complexities to a divorce application such as:
- One party disputes the date of separation, claiming it has been less than 12 months since separation.
- The parties have been married less than 2 years.
- You cannot locate your spouse to serve the Court documents on them.
- One spouse has changed their name from their married or maiden name since separation.
In these circumstances you should take advantage of a free first interview.