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The cost of separation and divorce
Our research indicates that people considering separation / divorce think it will cost around $20K to $50K in legal costs. However, this range will only occur in a small number of cases due to the complexity of the matter, and possible lack of co-operation from the other party.
In our experience your legal costs will be significantly less than this, especially if you can reach an agreement, also because we have Family Law Fixed Fees ™, you have greater certainty of knowing what it is going to cost you right from the beginning.
The advantages of fixed fees
Some of the advantages of fixed fee include:
- You know up front exactly what your costs will be
- You can make realistic arrangements about how and when to pay your legal bills
- You will pay a fee that equals the value you and your lawyer place on the work to be done, not the time it may take
- Your lawyer has a real incentive to get the work done and achieve results – because that’s how they get paid
- You and your lawyer have the same goals and time frame – getting the matter resolved as quickly as possible
- You won’t get any nasty surprises in the mail at the end of each month telling you how many hours you have to pay for
- You won’t be charged for every minute your lawyer spends on the phone or every document that they copy or e-mail. You are charged only the agreed fee for the stage of work that is being done
Your lawyer receives payment only when a stage of the fixed fee process has been successfully completed.
What are fixed fees?
Fixed Fees are pretty simple. You and your lawyer discuss your matter, the work required and the amount to be paid for that work. You then discuss how you will pay for the agreed costs. If you all agree, you sign a contract and the lawyer gets working.
Nothing is done and no charges are incurred until the agreement is in place. This way everyone knows exactly where they stand - and they know that from day one, not months later when the bills start arriving.
In most cases fixed fees provide a practical alternative to hourly billing, especially where you want to get matters settled quickly and at a cost that is both certain and proportionate to the work involved
How fixed fees work
To arrive at a fixed fee agreement, the lawyer and the client have to carefully determine the facts, the legal issues involved and develop a plan how the matter is to be handled.
The lawyer then proposes a fixed legal fee that sets out the work that is to be included (and what might be excluded) and the fee which is to be paid.
The fixed fee proposal may involve all stages of a matter or cover only part of the matters that might be involved. Sometimes it is not possible to quote a fixed fee for a later stage until the earlier stages have been completed (for instance, it is not possible to quote a price for preparing a matter for trial before the issues that are to be argued at the trial are known).
If you do not agree with the fixed fee proposal, the matter goes no further. It’s rather like buying a car or a house – unless the buyer and the seller agree, there is no deal.
The fixed fees arrangements form part of the Legal Costs Agreement that is the contract between client and lawyer.
No work is undertaken by the lawyer until the fee arrangements have been agreed and signed off by both parties.
The client will normally be asked to guarantee financial arrangements for the payment of each stage of the work before it is done but the actual payment to the firm may not take place until after the stage is completed.
Further stages will be quoted as and when it is practicable (and necessary) to do so. Most matters in Family Law settle early in the piece and it is, therefore, it;s often unnecessary to quote for work which may never be done.
What work is included in the fixed fee quote?
The precise scope of the work to be undertaken is set out in the Legal Costs Agreement. It will normally include all legal and administrative work that is necessary to complete the particular stage for which the fee was quoted. For instance, if we are to finalise settlement of a matter, that will include the drafting and execution of Court Orders and filing the Orders in the relevant Court.
The work includes preparing documents, dealing with correspondence, communicating with the other party and the Courts. Telephone, e-mail and fax communications will not be charged as separate items. You will not be charged for any time that we spend on your matter, except for Hearings and Conferences (which are set out below).
We include all of our operating costs quotation - like photocopying, telephone charges, faxes and e-mails - within the fixed fee.
What work is NOT included in the fixed fee quote?
The costs that we incur on your behalf in the conduct of your matter (known as ‘disbursements’) are not included in the fixed fee, although we will try to give you an estimate of what disbursements are anticipated in your case.
Work required for the enforcement or implementation of Orders is not included unless specifically specified in the fixed fee quote.
In special circumstances, there may also be specific exclusions which we would discuss with you and would be included in the Legal Cost Agreement.
If you would like to discuss your matter further we can arrange a consultation with one of our lawyers. In this meeting the lawyer will advise you of your rights and what direction they recommend you take. You are not obligated to go any further after this meeting if you decide not to. The cost of this meeting is $330 incl GST. However, you may be entitled to a free consultation – please call our toll free number for further information.
What are disbursements and why are they not included in the fixed fee quotations?
‘Disbursements’ are any costs we incur on your behalf. In most cases it is impossible to know at the beginning exactly what disbursements will be required.
We only incur a disbursement if you agree. We will require that you place money to meet any disbursements into our Trust Account so that the disbursements can be paid when the service is delivered.
Disbursements include expenses such as:
- Fees charged for work done by other professionals (barristers, experts, valuers, psychologists);
- Direct costs incurred in managing a matter such as courier fees; and
- Court filling fees.