How Much Does a Family Lawyer Cost in Australia? 

Posted on December 22, 2023 by Alex Bourne

Unified Lawyers Alex Burne

Alex Bourne

Author
Alex practices almost exclusively within Family Law, where he has extensive experience in all family law related matters, including Property, Parenting, Divorce, LGBTI property settlements, De-Facto Relationships and Child Support. Alex regularly appears before the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia in often complex Family Law litigation including Parenting and Property matters.

Key Takeaways:

A family lawyer in Australia costs on average between $300-$600 plus GST an hour.

  • Many factors determine the cost of a family lawyer including the complexity and duration of your case, the type of legal services required, the level of conflict between the parties, the lawyer’s billing methods and fee structure, the experience of the lawyer, where they are located and whether your matter involves going to Court.
  • While working with a lawyer can be expensive, in many cases it can save you time and money, helping you to resolve your disputes and achieve the best outcome in a timely manner.
  • Common billing methods for family lawyers in Australia include charging in accordance with hourly rates, itemised billing and may include, fixed fee or agreed pricing, and subscription pricing.

When people need the services of a family lawyer some initial questions cross their minds such as how much does a family lawyer cost? What should I look for in a family lawyer? What are the benefits of having legal representation and where do I start?

In this article, we will discuss the average cost and common billing methods of a family lawyer, the factors that can influence legal fees, the questions to ask during your initial meeting when engaging with a lawyer and the benefits of doing so.

So whether you’re looking for a family lawyer to help with a child custody dispute, recently separated or want a divorce, need advice for property, financial settlements, prenuptial and binding financial agreements keep reading to learn more.

How much does a family lawyer cost in Australia?

A family lawyer costs on average between $300-$600 plus GST an hour. A family lawyer’s fees may start at around $300 for a less experienced lawyer and can be as high as $600 per hour for a highly specialised and experienced lawyer. 

What factors can impact the cost of a family lawyer?

Many family lawyers charge for time spent on your matter and often this is at an hourly rate.

The cost of working with a family lawyer will vary depending on several different factors, such as their experience and specialisation, the complexity of your situation and how much time they need to spend on your matter. 

Many factors determine the fees of a Family Lawyer, including: 

  • The complexity of your case 

Complex cases often require more consideration, time and preparation. Many factors add to the complexity of a case including property or asset division, child custody matters (including disputes over child support, visitation and custody arrangements) and extra services required (such as family mediation). 

  • The expertise and experience of the lawyer 

One of the key factors in family Court costs is the lawyer’s expertise and experience. More experienced professionals who have specialised in Family Law can cost more than less experienced lawyers. 

A more senior, highly-specialised family lawyer may charge around $600 per hour, whereas junior lawyers charge less at around $300 as they develop their expertise.  

However, family matters can be complex. More experienced lawyers have years of knowledge and understanding to be able to provide advice, represent, negotiate, and navigate the system quickly. They understand how to analyse complex legal issues to resolve the matter with the Courts more efficiently and negotiate the best outcome for their clients. 

While the cost of a specialised experienced family lawyer may seem expensive, it could save you a lot of time, stress, and even money in the long run. 

  • Where the Law Firm is located 

The cost of a family lawyer also varies by where they are based. Often, lawyers in larger metropolitan areas cost more than those in rural, regional or smaller towns.  

Family lawyer costs also vary from state to state.  

State

Average cost of an initial consultation 

NSW  

$360 

VIC  

$365 

WA  

$385 

SA  

$380 

QLD  

$385 

  • The type of legal services required and the area of law you need assistance with (e.g., divorce, child custody, property settlement)  

The nature of the legal services you need and the specific area of law your case falls under can significantly influence the associated costs. Different legal matters, such as divorce, child custody disputes, or property settlements, may involve varying complexities and procedural requirements. Also, specialised expertise required for each area can impact the overall expenses, with specialised lawyers often incurring higher legal fees.  

Therefore, understanding the specific legal services needed and the area of law is crucial in estimating the potential costs involved in your case. 

  • The duration of the case 

Your fees can vary significantly based on the case complexity and the lawyer’s billing structure. The time it takes for the parties to negotiate and reach an agreement or for the Court to settle the dispute will determine the costs involved in family law solicitors’ fees. If you are undergoing a divorce, the length of the case can significantly affect the overall expense. In general, a quicker and more straightforward process tends to result in lower costs. 

  • The level of conflict between the parties 

Family law matters can cause stress, heightened emotions and conflict. If the parties involved struggle to reach an agreement, the cost of a family lawyer may escalate due to the increased time and effort required by the lawyer for negotiating and mediating between the disputing parties. 

  • If your matter involves filing documents or applications 

The complexity of your case, particularly if it involves filing various documents or applications, can contribute to additional legal costs. Document preparation and submission may require more time from the lawyer which may cost more. 

  • If your matter needs to go to Court 

Cases that proceed to Court typically involve higher legal expenses. Court appearances require extensive preparation, documentation, and legal representation, which can increase the overall costs of your legal proceedings. 

  • If the need for expert witnesses, other outside resources or further dispute resolution methods are required (e.g., mediation, litigation, collaborative law)  

In certain family law cases, it might be necessary to use expert witnesses and / or other outside resources to provide testimony or evidence such as psychologists, accountants, and valuers. Additional fees for expert witnesses or outside resources vary depending on the services they have provided but can cost from $5,000 to $15,000 or more. 

In instances where further dispute resolution methods are required (e.g., mediation, litigation, collaborative law) litigation fees typically range from $10,000 to $30,000 for negotiations or mediation. 

In instances where a matter progresses to a final hearing or Court, engaging Counsel may become necessary. Barrister fees may be charged hourly, ranging from $200 to $600 per hour. These are charged either per hour or on a daily basis, depending on their billing method and fee structure. 

  • The law firm / lawyer’s billing methods and fee structure 

The billing method and fee structure for a family lawyer’s service can also significantly alter the costs. 

Some lawyers may charge a flat fee or agreed price for their services, whereas others may charge an hourly rate. Whether you pick a flat fee or hourly rate depends on the complexity of your case. Lawyers who charge an hourly rate may be more experienced and have greater resources to handle cases that takes longer to resolve. 

Some lawyers charge a set price for every service with an itemised bill or a type of subscription pricing within a defined scope.

Some lawyers require a retainer which is an amount of money to be paid as credit towards your future fees, this is simply a means of securing the lawyers future costs. A retainer deposit can range from $1,500 to $20,000 depending on the needs of your matter. The work will then be charged in accordance with the lawyer’s hourly rate and if the retainer monies are used up, the lawyer may need to request further monies into trust dependent on the needs of your case.

 

Common billing methods

Some billing methods for family lawyers that you might come across include:

  • Itemised Billing

Many law firms will charge in accordance with the lawyer’s hourly rate and you pay based on each of the services that are used in your circumstance. The lawyers will provide you with an invoice itemising the works done and the time taken.

  • Fixed fee or Agreed Pricing

Your lawyer may provide you with a total cost to handle your matter, regardless of the time spent on the case.

  • Subscription Pricing

This type of fee structure system usually a regular payment, whether it’s monthly, quarterly or annually, you will have access to a lawyer for legal advice and services that are within a defined scope.

Why are family lawyers expensive?

A family lawyer’s job is to provide their clients with accurate advice on a wide variety of legal matters.

As the law is evolving and every case is unique in its circumstances, a family lawyer is required to analyse complex legal issues to find the best outcome. They are also required to ensure that any deadlines associated with your situation are met.

Essentially, a family lawyer helps to make a complex legal issue a lot simpler for you to resolve than if you were to do it alone. So, while the costs of a family lawyer can seem expensive, they can save you a lot of time, stress, and even money in the long run.

Who pays the cost of custody lawyer? 

In Australia, it is the responsibility of each party to pay their own legal fees during a child custody case unless the Court specifically orders otherwise. The Court has the power to make orders for costs and in some cases may order one party to pay all or a portion of the opposing party’s legal fees if considered appropriate.

This may occur if one of the parties is found to have acted in bad faith throughout the Court proceedings. If you are unable to afford a lawyer, you may be eligible for Legal Aid funding, which will mean that Legal Aid will provide you with a lawyer for free. This will be dependent on whether you meet the criteria for eligibility of Legal Aid.

 

What fees related questions should you ask before hiring a family lawyer? 

Hiring a family lawyer is a massive step and a big decision. We get that. You need to be 100% confident about the services they provide, and their costs and ensure you are hiring the right family lawyer for your unique circumstances.

Here are 12 questions to ask your family lawyer before you hire them.

1. Does your lawyer specialise in family law.

Some law firms specialises in family law and others offer a wide range of legal services from criminal law to estate planning, divorce law, commercial law and everything in between.

A specialised family lawyer will be experienced in working on cases like yours and within the space consistently. They will likely be up-to-date with the changing landscape of family law and will be able to guide you through the process confidently with current knowledge in handling related issues.

2. What Are Your Legal Fees and potential rates of support staff that may work on my matter?

People can often be afraid to ask this question but obtaining detailed information regarding the lawyer’s fee structure and potential rates of support staff can help you avoid unexpected legal bills and ensure the chosen lawyer is within your budget. The last thing you want is a surprise at the end.

Lawyers should be completely transparent and clearly state their fee structure during the initial meeting and before you agree to engage their services.

It is not unusual to have extra costs that aren’t included in their initial pricing, as your case develops. Your family lawyer should also inform you of any additional fees required such as outside resources or further dispute resolution methods (e.g., mediation, litigation, barrister fees). Understanding the potential of extra costs and any associates or support staff involved in your case helps you anticipate the ongoing costs.

Your lawyer should also provide you with an outline of payment options.

And remember, it is okay to get quotes from a range of law firms to ensure you engage with a lawyer within your budget who can guide you through the process quickly and efficiently.

3. Can you explain the process to me?

Request a clear explanation of the legal process associated with your case. A reputable family lawyer should be able to outline clearly the recommended steps and what you can expect from them according to your circumstances, using terminology you understand.

Remember, you should come away from the initial consultation meeting feeling you have clarity and that you have chosen a lawyer you can trust to guide you through the process and provide clarity on the next steps. If they use terminology you do not understand or you need anything explained further, don’t be worried to ask. It’s all part of the service.

4. Will you be dealing with my case from start to finish?

Ask if the lawyer will personally handle your case from start to finish and if they will be representing you if the case has to go through Court proceedings. Although it is not unusual that a case may be handled by a team of lawyers or handed to a different colleague from the person at your initial meeting, knowing who will be dealing with your case helps manage points of contact and provides clarity and peace of mind.

5. Is there a way we can avoid going through the Courts?

Although it depends on your personal circumstances, there may be alternative options to Court proceedings that can potentially help resolve differences without going to Court. Ask about available options and if they provide these such as family mediation services.

Courts vs Family Mediation services

Some services such as the mediation process are generally more cost-effective than Court proceedings. Some mediation services are available free of charge. However, most private mediation providers will have fees associated.

If you’re going through a divorce or you have questions about mediation in family law matters, our highly experienced and compassionate family lawyers in Australia are here to help you. You can discuss your situation with us during a free consultation.

6. Do you charge additionally for travel time, phone calls, meetings, and emails?

Clarifying whether additional charges apply for various communication and interaction channels ensures transparency in fee structures.

7. Can you estimate your initial fees, and what do those fees cover?

Obtaining an estimate of initial fees and a breakdown of the services covered allows you to gauge the cost of getting your case started.

8. Are there any additional expenses that I can expect? If so, what are they?

Identifying potential additional expenses, such as Court filing fees or expert witness charges, helps you budget more accurately for your legal proceedings.

9. Are you able to provide an estimate of the total fees related to my case?

Requesting an overall estimate for the entire case gives you a clearer picture of the potential financial commitment required throughout the legal process.

10. Are you able to offer a fixed fee agreement for any aspects of my case?

Inquiring about fixed fee options for specific services or stages of your case can provide cost predictability and financial peace of mind.

11. What are my billing and payment options?

Understanding the lawyer’s billing methods and payment options, such as instalment plans or retainer agreements, helps you plan your finances accordingly and avoid surprises.

12. Is There Anything I Need To Do Before We Start?

Ask if there are any prerequisites, documentation, evidence or information required from you. This can help prepare your lawyer with all the information necessary to start working on your case facilitating a smoother process and potentially reducing legal costs.

This is just one way to keep legal costs down.

At Unified Lawyers, we know that legal fees are often a cause of stress and even a deciding matter when it comes to engaging a lawyer. This is why we are as transparent as possible when it comes to our costs. Your first consultation with us is free, and during this consultation you can ask us questions and we can gain an understanding of your situation and your legal needs.

 

How you can keep your legal costs down?

There are a few ways you can keep your legal costs low while still obtaining effective and high-quality legal assistance, including:

  • Use your Free consultation

Many family lawyers offer a free consultation. As family law matters can be very personal and emotional, a free consultation is a great time for you to see if a lawyer and /or law firm is the right fit for you without obligation. It’s also a great time for you to ask a lot of questions about your circumstances.

Print out or make a note of the list of questions that we have provided above before your consultation.

And remember bullet point one, provide your family lawyer with as much detail as you can during this consultation to ensure their advice is relevant to your situation.

  • Provide as much information as possible

No information is too much so be open and transparent with your family lawyer and provide all information from the start, even if you’re not sure whether something is relevant or you think it could impact your situation. Leaving pieces of the puzzle out can make it a lot more time-consuming and difficult for your lawyer to provide you with the most correct and accurate advice possible for your unique situation.

  • Be prepared and organised

Expanding on this point, remember that your lawyer bills you for their time, so be well-prepared and organised including responding to your lawyer’s information requests promptly and being on time for appointments.

  • Avoid unnecessary communication

As thorough as you want to be with your lawyer, remember that some lawyers will charge additional for all communication and interaction such as travel expenses, phone calls, emails, and text messages. Avoid communication that does not pertain to your case and efficient use of your lawyer’s time.

  • Make efficient use of your lawyer’s time

This brings us to our next point- your lawyer’s time is valuable, so use it wisely. Some lawyers charge hourly rates so make the most of this hour. Before meeting or discussing your case with your lawyer make notes of any queries or concerns and communicate these clearly so they can be addressed efficiently and as quickly as possible.

  • If possible, aim to resolve issues outside of Court

Although it is not always possible to come to an agreement outside of Court, an experienced family lawyer helps resolve even the most acrimonious situation without the need to go to Court. Avoiding Court can help keep costs down and make the process quicker and less stressful for all involved parties.

While family matters can be emotionally taxing, when the Court is involved, it can take this stress to a whole new level.

It can often be difficult to see all of the potential solutions available because emotions can quickly cloud judgment, and this is where a family lawyer can help.

Despite the potential costs, hiring a family lawyer in Australia can be a wise investment and there are many benefits of hiring a family lawyer for your case.

Where can I find a great family lawyer in Australia? 

If you’re involved in any family law matter – whether it’s anything we’ve mentioned today – or any other kind of legal dispute involving your family discuss your situation with us today in a free, no-obligation consultation.

Why Unified Lawyers?

It’s a big deal to claim we’re the best family lawyers in Sydney, but we stand by it.

Why? Because we’re proud of our family law team and the services we provide. We have been rated as one of the three best Family Lawyers in Sydney for 7 consecutive years and have over 400 5-star reviews all over the internet from happy clients.

At Unified Lawyers, our experienced family law team is available to help people all over Australia with all kinds of family law issues that arise.

We pride ourselves on providing our clients with a safe and compassionate environment where we aim to ensure you understand your rights and can make the right decisions for your future.

Your best interests are our interests, which is why we offer a free consultation for all new clients explain your options, and keep you informed every step of the way.

We want you to feel like you’ve found the right family law team.

We aim to:

  • Understand your circumstances and what matters to you
  • Anticipate any issues or concerns
  • Give practical advice and strategies
  • Communicate with you regularly and clearly.

Our professional duties are crucial to ensuring the best possible outcome for you and your family. We will honour those duties by:

  • Respecting your confidentiality
  • Acting in your best interests
  • Representing you with skill and expertise
  • Acting with honesty and integrity
  • Giving you written information about our costs.

How do the fees work at Unified Lawyers?

At Unified Lawyers, we take pride in removing the pressure from what is often a very stressful situation. We also pride ourselves on concise communication as well as being a valuable resource for clients to access.

Our legal advice is straightforward, accurate and easy to understand. We deal with your legal matter in a speedy manner that meets your time frames and gets you the resolution you are seeking.

We know that working with a lawyer can be a large financial commitment and aim to provide our clients with as much transparency as possible when it comes to our costs.

Once we understand your circumstances, we’ll give you a written cost agreement and outline payment options.

In addition to affordable services, we also provide a number of flexible billing arrangements, depending on your case, so you can choose the right option for you.

Our billing models include:

Time interval billing – Based on the time we spend working on your legal issue. Usually, our time interval billing is based on an hourly rate.

Fixed-rate-fees – We’ll give you an upfront quote that’s the set fee, regardless of the time it takes to complete the task.

At Unified Lawyers, we charge an hourly rate based on the time we actually spend on your matter, so you’re only paying for the work that we actually do.

We understand that the cost of engaging with a lawyer can be a source of stress for many people, which is why we don’t charge for the small things, like printing and postage. Instead, we try to be as transparent and provide you with as much information as possible in advance.

Once we have had a consultation with you and before we commence any work on your matter, we will provide you with an estimate of the costs associated with handling your matter. This estimate will include GST and all foreseeable potential out-of-pocket expenses, and as your matter progresses, if there are any additional costs, we will provide you with information regarding these in advance.

We are here for you

When we say that we’re Here For You, we mean it.

Our highly experienced and compassionate have a deep passion for family law and genuine care.

We provide services in all areas of family law, to clients with many different backgrounds and needs. So, when you engage us, you can feel confident that you’ll get excellent family law advice.

Unified Lawyers Alex Burne

Alex Bourne

Author
Alex practices almost exclusively within Family Law, where he has extensive experience in all family law related matters, including Property, Parenting, Divorce, LGBTI property settlements, De-Facto Relationships and Child Support. Alex regularly appears before the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia in often complex Family Law litigation including Parenting and Property matters.

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