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How to save on legal costs in a family law matter

  • Write down your story and provide it to your lawyer before meeting them. This can save significant time and allows the lawyer to get to the main legal issues faster.
  • Try to get a fixed fee where ever possible, most lawyers charge an hourly rate and will give you a ‘cost estimate’. This is different from a fixed fee. They can go over the cost estimate (as long as they tell you) and not finish the work. A fixed fee, however, means you only pay one fee regardless of how many hours it takes to finish the work. When comparing lawyer’s costs it’s essential you consider whether it’s an estimate or a fixed fee.
  • Ask the lawyer about any disbursements, who pays them and how to minimise them. This might mean sharing costs with the other side when appropriate.
  • A substantial part of a lawyer’s job involves getting information, so getting as much information as you can, will substantially reduce your total legal costs.
    • House
      • Use correct and up to date valuations of the property you own some suggestions
      • Get a house valuation from a few local real estates
      • Obtain up to date mortgage statements
    • Car
      • Use a site like redbook.com or carsguide.com to value your property
  • Prepare for meetings and telephone calls, take notes and recap at the end of the meeting. This saves you asking the same questions and ensuring you clearly understand your lawyers’ advice.
  • Find a lawyer who will allow you to do some of the legal legwork, this might mean:
    • photocopying your own documents;
    • scanning documents; and
    • drafting your own documents and using the lawyer to review them.
  • Don’t try to drag the matter out due to emotional reasons, and if you believe your ex is doing so then you need to have an honest discussion with your lawyer on the best way to approach them going forward. You catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid enforcing your legal rights just because your ex is being unreasonable.
  • Make sure you and your lawyer are upfront about legal costs and have it in the front of your mind.
  • Don’t just go to the cheapest lawyer, you might pay less legal fees but lose substantial amounts in negotiations.
  • Don’t choose a lawyer based on friendliness and warmth. This might mean choosing a lawyer who you don’t necessarily like but trust to negotiate your matter in your best interest.
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