Whether you’re separating or getting divorced, it’s always good to get good legal advice. But what is the cost of a lawyer for separation and divorce? How do you find a lawyer and how can you pay? Let’s take a look.

Is the cost of a lawyer for separation different from the cost of a lawyer for a divorce?

When it comes to separation and divorce, the most significant costs you’ll face will likely relate to your property settlement and establishing parenting arrangements when there are children involved. The cost doesn’t change depending on whether you're getting divorced or separated – it’s just a matter of timing.

You don’t have to wait until you’re divorced to make arrangements for children and property – it’s a good idea to make them after you separate. In fact, you need to make sure proper arrangements have been made involving children before the courts will allow a divorce to proceed. And if you haven’t already, you must apply for a property settlement within 1 year from the date your divorce order has taken effect. 

Is a divorce lawyer the same as a family lawyer?

Divorce is a part of family law. You’ll find the terms divorce lawyer and family lawyer are generally used interchangeably.

How much does a divorce lawyer cost?

What and how much you pay depends on how you proceed.

  • Solicitors commonly charge from $350 to $650 per hour
  • Barristers (required if you go to court) charge between $1,500 and $6,000 a day
  • A DIY agreement may cost as little as a few hundred dollars for a lawyer to review
  • Litigation can cost anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000 or more
  • Arbitration typically offers a 20%-30% savings compared to litigation
  • Mediation is even cheaper – you can expect it to cost about $2,500 per person

Do divorce lawyers charge by the hour or per issue?

Lawyers can charge either by the hour or offer a fixed fee for their service. Your lawyer should be able to give you an estimate of costs involved in your case and when payment will be due. 

Do lawyers offer divorce packages?

Your lawyer may offer you a fixed fee package. There are rules setting out exactly how much a lawyer can charge for work done under the Family Law Act, however they can charge more (with conditions). Your agreement with them should outline:

  • how much the fees will be
  • when the fees will be due
  • the basis for any variation in the feeswhether you can defer the fee, pay via a payment plan, or a combination of both

They should also regularly update you about your fees so that you always know exactly what the cost will be.

How can I find a family lawyer?

It’s always a good idea to shop around for a lawyer that best suits you and your circumstances. You can ask trusted friends and family for referrals or you can search for a family lawyer in your state. What if you can’t afford a divorce lawyer? The Family Relationships Advice Line (FRAL) can help you with free legal advice. Information about other legal assistance services is also available from the Attorney-General's Department.

How do I pay for a lawyer?

While you might turn to your credit card or think about borrowing from family, here are three ways to pay for a lawyer to consider.

  • Paying outright
    Paying for a lawyer with funds you have makes sense if you have the money available. However, sometimes the money you have may be tied up in your property settlement. You may need to seek an interim (short-term) order from the court to be given a lump sum of funds from the property pool prior to the final settlement.
  • Personal loans
    If you’re short on funds or you want to keep your money for other things, a personal loan can be a good option if you don’t have a settlement to worry about and you’re confident you can meet the loan terms. You can repay the money over time – lenders usually offer loan terms between 1 and 7 years. However, you should remember that you’ll need to start making your monthly repayments straight away. You’ll also likely have to pay an upfront fee to establish the loan. And it’s a good idea to make sure you understand what penalty fees may apply (say, if you miss a monthly repayment) and if you will be charged an early repayment fee if you repay the loan in full prior to the end of the loan term.
  • Legal loan
    A legal loan is a type of personal loan, but as it’s designed specifically to help you pay for family law matters, it works a little differently. A form of asset-based lending, it helps you unlock cash tied up in your assets by securing them against your loan. You can usually borrow up to 30% of your expected property settlement. You don’t need to draw down the full amount upfront – you can borrow what you need, when you need it, and then you only pay interest on what you use. And unlike typical personal loans, you’re not required to make regular repayments for legal loans. Instead, you repay the loan in full once you’ve received your property settlement.
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