How much does it cost to get a divorce in Australia? Obtaining a divorce – that is, legal and formal recognition that your marriage has ended – is a relatively inexpensive part of the process of going your separate way from your spouse. However, we find when we are approached with the query “how much does a divorce cost in Australia”, what’s usually wanted is an idea of all the costs that are associated with ending a marriage, including property settlement and/or making arrangements for children. Here, we take a look at the full cost of getting a divorce in Australia.
The basic cost of divorce in Australia will apply to everyone wishing to obtain a divorce, but the total cost of divorce will depend on the complexity of your needs as well as the route you wish to take to resolve disputes with your ex-partner. So the full cost of divorce includes the divorce process itself, the financial settlement and arrangements for the children, if there are any. This means there is no one-size-fits all price tag. And as you can probably appreciate, the more complicated and “contested” a divorce is, the more costly it will become. So what affects the total cost of divorce?
Things that influence the price of divorce
The biggest factor which will determine the ultimate cost of your divorce is whether or not you and your ex can agree on the terms of your divorce. Then there is the level of complexity of your finances, and the need to resolve parenting issues.
Whether or not you decide to engage solicitors will affect the price, obviously. And sure, it may seem like a good move to divorce without a lawyer to lower your costs. However, being self-represented means you may end up with less if you haven’t received advice on what you would otherwise legally be entitled to. Lawyers will help you make the best decisions to protect your interests, can streamline the process for you, and importantly, ensure you avoid making costly mistakes and missing opportunities. It’s always a good idea to at the very least consult a family lawyer in the early stages of your divorce, even if you think it will be uncontested and amicable.
Finally, how you decide to resolve your differences will have a big impact on the cost. A litigated divorce is by far the most expensive option, as it will involve solicitors, barristers, court hearing fees and fees for other professionals like experts. However, in some cases, litigation is your only option in order to obtain a fair outcome. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options like arbitration, mediation and collaboration are much cheaper than litigation and can have far better outcomes as well. If it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to amicably resolve your divorce and related issues, make sure you speak to a family lawyer to get an estimate of what you could expect to pay if you need to go to court, and what the ADR options may cost.
The simple cost of divorce
The cheapest way to get a divorce is if you and your ex are in agreement and you can submit a joint application. This involves you paying for court filing fees and any other disbursements as necessary (for example, having foreign marriage certificates translated). Costs rise for a sole application, as you will need to factor in other fees, such as hiring a process server for serving divorce papers and you may need to attend the court hearing (which you may not otherwise have to do if it’s a joint application.)
But to secure your finances or formalise parenting arrangements with consent orders, you’ll need to pay further court filing fees, mediation fees, and potentially family lawyer fees and disbursements.
When negotiating your property settlement, you may well need to factor in other costs as well. You may need input from a tax expert or other consultants. For real estate, there’ll be the cost of valuations; if a business is in the mix, you’ll need a business valuation and a certified accountant, and potentially other professionals.
If your matter goes to court, there will likely be further costs, including court filing fees, court hearing fees and the cost of expert witnesses.
Who pays the court fees?
The person filing for divorce, known as the Applicant, always pays the divorce application filing fee which is paid to the court to provide administration of the divorce process.
If you are the Respondent, ie. you are responding to the divorce application, typically you won’t pay any court fees if you agree with the application.
If you and your ex wish, naturally you can reach an amicable agreement on sharing these costs.
You can find details of all court filing fees here.
If you hold certain Government concession cards or you can demonstrate financial hardship, you may be eligible for a reduced fee or even an exemption of fees: see the FCFCOA guidelines for all details.
Reducing the cost of a family lawyer
Have them minimise your costs by ensuring the appropriate people work on your matter
The amount you pay for a lawyer generally depends on their experience and qualifications. Therefore, it’s important to ask a prospective firm for details of the experience and qualifications of the lawyers and paralegals proposed to work on your matter, and for details of the support that less experienced lawyers will receive from more senior staff when working on your matter.
Our family lawyers charge between $480 and $600 per hour plus GST. As you make your inquiries, you will find other family lawyers in Canberra will normally charge between $480 and $700 per hour plus GST, depending on seniority.
How do you know which lawyer you will need?
If your matter is complex, if there is a significant asset pool, if your spouse exhibits challenging behaviour, or if there are mental health or domestic violence issues, we recommend that you engage one of our Accredited Specialists in family law. Specialists are trained to manage complex matters and to provide strategic advice early on, which can ultimately save you a lot of money.
Choose a tech-savvy firm
Make sure they utilise the latest legal support software to ensure efficiency. Running a largely paperless office which means lower overheads and less time spent on filing, printing, and dictation. And holding meetings by phone or Skype/Zoom helps reduce your costs as well. At Alliance Family Law, these are all par for the course.
Further, one of our innovations to keep legal fees to a minimum is to give our clients access to a client portal. This is used to complete certain court forms, edit letters and affidavits, and generally to stay in touch and communicate. We also use separate portals for external experts and witnesses (e.g. accountants, barristers etc) to download and upload evidence in a streamlined manner. We also minimise cost to clients by ensuring that non-legal information (not advice) is sent by our administration staff, paralegals or by our systems so that you receive information where appropriate at a reduced price or in the case of system generated material at no additional cost.
Reduce costs by undertaking some of the work yourself
Sometimes called “limited assistance representation” or “limited scope representation”, this is where you complete those tasks that don’t need legal expertise (such as filling in simple forms – after all, why pay a lawyer to do this?)
Take advantage of free first conferences
An initial conference is great for exchanging info and working out if we are a good fit for your matter. While initial consultations are free at some firms, others charge an upfront fee. We offer a free, brief no-obligation initial conference as well as a fixed fee $300 zoom meeting to provide preliminary advice.
We offer a fixed fee for divorce. For other family law issues, including property settlement and parenting consent orders, we can provide detailed cost estimates for many services, based on your individual circumstances.
Remember – your divorce is separate from other family law matters including property settlement and parenting arrangements. You can settle your divorce and start to move on with your personal life, but still continue to work through these other matters.
If you would like to engage us to complete your application for divorce on your behalf, or prepare consent orders for a property settlement or parenting arrangements, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.