Family law proceedings can become very stressful. It is natural to be concerned about legal fees. However, your family law fees do not necessarily have to skyrocket. We have provided our top 10 tips on ways in which you can help to keep your legal fees reasonable!
Although family law proceedings can at times be costly, ensuring you get proper legal advice is very beneficial and can help reduce stress by providing you with an understanding of your rights and what’s involved in family law proceedings from the outset. In that way you will have realistic expectations from an early stage and will be less likely to spend costs pursuing positions unlikely to be successful.
In our experience, having a family lawyer represent you in family proceedings can help you receive a more favourable property settlement outcome compared to parties who represent themselves.
Here are our 10 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 come up with a plan on what your matter will involve. At the end of each meeting with your lawyer, ask about the next step 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 will result in a shorter appointment time as you won’t need to take time to recall the questions you had planned to ask. It will also help eliminate the need for you to call your lawyer after your appointment to ask the questions you had forgotten. Remember, every time you call to speak to your lawyer, you may get charged! We also recommend you send your list of questions to your lawyer before your meeting so that your lawyer can be prepared for the types of issues that you would like to address.
Take notes of discussions with your 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. This reduces the time spent on speaking with your lawyer and in turn will help reduce your legal fees.
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 also recommend sending a request for yours and your ex-partner’s superannuation fund details as this will provide information to both lawyers about assets and liabilities of the relationship. This will also give both parties an approximate indication of the total value of financial assets. Taking this extra step can save your lawyer time and help reduce your fees even further.
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 relationship or emotional advice. Try to keep your discussion to legal issues only, this will 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 rebates through Medicare for counselling fees.
Try to remain reasonable when undertaking settlement negotiations
When it comes to family law proceedings, both parties will typically 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. That is where having good legal advice is invaluable. If you continue to be unreasonable or refuse to negotiate with your ex-partner, you will also be increasing your legal costs!
Avoid incessantly calling your 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 party will only increase your legal fees. If you only have a basic message you want to pass onto your lawyer, or to schedule an appointment it may be appropriate to leave the message with their legal assistant. A word of caution though- administrative staff are not qualified to give legal advice, nor should they to be the target of one’s frustration over the family law proceedings generally.
Provide your 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 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, will also save the law clerk’s time and help keep your legal fees down. The more you can do to help your lawyers the more you will save in legal costs!
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 adjournments of Court hearings and other Court applications, respond to their requests as soon as possible. You also do not want to give the other party an excuse to claim for legal costs they have incurred because of your delays. 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 throughout managing your matter.
Although legal fees can at times be costly, we cannot stress the value of obtaining legal representation from an experienced family lawyer as in in the long run, it can help you receive a more favourable outcome that is ultimately more cost effective.
If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on (08) 8344 6422 or email [email protected].