How much will my Family Law Case cost?

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When a client first meets a family lawyer, high among his/her considerations is the question of costs: How much will it cost me? Clients are entitled to know from their lawyer the likely cost of their case. [1]. The lawyer’s obligation goes beyond disclosing his/her hourly rate or the fees for such things as photocopies, facsimiles and other disbursements. The lawyer must provide a total estimate of costs.

In the initial contact between a prospective client and a family lawyer,  we at elringtons provide estimates of costs which we then confirm in writing. Family law matters have clear stages or “Court events” and we confirm in writing the total estimate of costs for each estimate, namely:

  1. An early agreement before court proceedings commence including the paperwork required to formalise the family law agreement legally. This stage may include pre-nuptial agreements and other form of family law financial agreements;
  2. Compulsory mediation after Court proceedings commenced – In the event that no agreement is reached and court proceedings must be commenced, the Court requires early in the life of the proceedings that the parties attend a compulsory mediation session. Often matters settle at the conclusion of the mediation/ counselling stage and we include in our written estimate the estimate to complete the paperwork required to formalise the family law agreement legally.
  3. Costs of interim hearings – Sometimes, during court proceedings one or both parties seek interim orders. Normally, these are urgent applications, for example, to stop a party disposing of assets before the final hearing. Interim hearings add to the overall cost of a family law matter. Our written estimate of costs will include information about the costs of interim hearings.
  4. The final hearing – the number of days of the hearing, barrister’s fees, expert’s fees (psychologists, forensic accountants etc.)

Damage Control Exercise – We advise our clients very early in the negotiations process of a family law matter to make a reasonable offer of settlement in writing regarding all outstanding matters in dispute. This is known as a “Calderbank offer” [2], that is, an offer by Party A to settle a dispute which puts Party B on notice that if the ultimate outcome of the court proceedings is similar to the offer or less favourable to Party B, Party A will rely on the original offer to ask that Party B pay his legal costs and disbursements of having to pursue the case. 

Clients in control about costs – Throughout the life of their case, we invite our clients to communicate with us frequently about the up to date work in progress to ensure that the client is at all times making informed decisions including about the costs related to their case.

For more information, contact  Carlos Turini or another of our family law solicitors in either our Canberra or Queanbeyan offices.

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[1] The Legal Profession Act (ACT) 2006 (“the Act), imposes on lawyers in the Australian Capital Territory definite obligations about disclosure regarding their legal fees and expenses. Similar obligations are imposed on lawyers in New South Wales pursuant to the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) which was enacted in July 2015. The obligation on the part of a lawyer to make such a disclosure is found in Part 3.2 of the Act and is entitled “Costs Disclosure and Assessment”.

[2] In reference to the High Court decision in a family law matter named Calderbank v Calderbank [1975] 3 All ER 333 (EWCA).

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