Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

How to keep costs down when going through the court system

Prior to the merger of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA), many concerned stakeholders anticipated that combining the two courts would cause increased fees and lengthy delays, contributing to further stress for families. Six months post merger, CEO of New Way Lawyers – Australia’s first non-profit law firm – Carolyn Devries, shares that some of these concerns may have been justified.

Carolyn Devries noted that, legal fees to prepare a matter for a first court appearance have increased an average of 30%, when compared to before the merger.

The increase in fees are attributed to changes in court processes which include:

  1. A number of extra steps involved with mandatory pre-action procedures
  2. Additional forms required to be filed to commence or respond to proceedings
  3. Duplication of attending unsuccessful dispute resolution
  4. Additional court dates, due to delays in the allocation of trial directions and trial dates.

As Australia’s first non profit law firm, and an advocate for accessible and alternative legal service provision models, New Way Lawyers is concerned about the stress increasing legal fees place on families going through separation and divorce.  Devries shared some top tips on how to keep costs down when going through the court system.

Lunch with a Lawyer

As a way of giving back to the community, New Way Lawyers have started a new initiative called Lunch with a Lawyer. It’s a free online service where anyone who has family law questions can get answers from an experienced family lawyer, each weekday from 12noon to 1pm.  Questions can be in relation to parenting matters, financial and property settlement, divorce and domestic violence, 

New Way Lawyers have significantly increased resource allocation to Lunch with a Lawyer, after seeing an 80% increase in demand for this service in the last 6 months, following the merger of the Courts

Legal Education & Information Sessions

To be forewarned is to be forearmed. New Way Lawyers also offer free of charge legal education and information sessions to community groups and are happy to share their expertise on any aspect of Family Law. 

Get Legal Advice Early

There is no substitute for obtaining tailored legal advice about your situation from an experienced family law. The right advice, early on may avoid an issue blowing out and becoming more difficult and costly to resolve down the track. 

Honesty is the Cheapest Policy

It always pays to be upfront and honest with your lawyer. Trying to hide finances or providing incorrect information can result in harsh penalties and can also result in proceedings being dragged out, adding to the costs. Family lawyers are used to dealing with difficult situations and understand that people make mistakes in the heat of the moment and when emotions are high. Your lawyer will work to mitigate the impact of any difficult things that you may have said or done following separation.

Consider alternative dispute resolution rather than going to court.

Family mediation also known as Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) can save time and money and may help you achieve a faster and more cost-effective solution for your parenting and property matters. FDR focuses on helping parties’ in conflict reach mutually agreeable outcomes. For more information go to www.familyrelationships.gov.au or www.fcfcoa.gov.au

Always be open to compromise

No one ever wins in a family law matter, so it is important to be open to compromise. Being fixed on a specific or particular outcome will reduce the likelihood of a timely and cost effective resolution. You should remain open to a range of possible outcomes and be flexible and creative in your thinking. 

Be organised

In family law court proceedings there will be many documents that will need to be provided to your lawyer, the lawyer for the other party and the Court. Providing any documents that are requested in an organised and timely manner will help to minimise legal fees. 

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