Family law proceedings can become very stressful. The last thing you should be worrying about is your legal fees. Your family law fees do not necessarily have to become a burden. We have provided our top 10 tips on ways in which you can keep your legal fees under control!
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.
In our experience, having a family lawyer represent you in family law 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.
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. If it will assist you to focus on the discussion, consider bringing a trusted friend or family member who can quietly take notes on your behalf while you engage with your lawyer.
Prepare your financial documents
You will usually be required to provide financial information such as 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 you 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. We suggest asking your lawyer for a list of documents that will be required ahead of your first meeting so you can prepare the relevant information.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. However, it is important to treat your lawyer as a professional rather than someone to whom you can direct your emotions. 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, 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 a rebate through Medicare for counselling fees.
Try to remain objective 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 important to you at the time, but longer term, are not cost-effective to argue about. Avoid being unreasonable or threatening litigation as a way of punishing your ex-partner. If you feel your ex-partner is being unreasonable, consider the cost versus benefit of continuing to argue over a particular issue. Sometimes it is more beneficial to you both emotionally and cost-wise to simply let an issue go.
Avoid incessantly calling or emailing 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 or emailing your lawyer to find out if you have a reply from the other party will only increase your legal fees. Similarly, if you have something non-urgent that you want to ask or pass on to your lawyer, consider whether to save this until next time you hear from them.
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). Ensure that you follow instructions from your lawyer as to what information they need from you to ensure you only provide them with what is relevant to your case. Providing your lawyer with relevant factual and concise 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. If possible, group relevant documents together e.g. send all statements for a particular bank account together rather than sending each statement individually. Providing an electronic version of the list and documents where possible, will also save 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. They also have to manage their workload and deadlines on other client matters. If you don’t want to pay extra for your lawyer to keep following up with you or delay progression of your matter, 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 manage your legal fees. 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 the long run, it is often more-cost-effective than trying to do things yourself and can help you to achieve a more favourable outcome in your property settlement