Australia: Legal fees in Family Law matters – How to get them under control?

In a recent Judgment handed down by Justice Robert Benjamin of the Family Court, two solicitors were referred to the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner (the Regulatory body dealing with solicitor misconduct) as a consequence of fees issued to their clients.

The matter involved a seven day Trial, of both property matters and parenting matters which were settled throughout the course of the Trial.

The fees expended by one party were approximately $325,000.00 – the other party expended approximately $500,000.00.

There is no question that, on any objective assessment, those fees are uncommon. However, it has been my experience that fees can be incurred over a lengthy period of time and dealing with another party that will not be reasonable in their approach to the matter. Fees of that magnitude do not, in my view, mean that there is some form of misconduct.

The most important consideration is to take steps to ensure that a situation like that does not happen to you. Coleman Greig has given real thought to how it is that fees can be minimised. There are certain things that we, as a firm, can do, but there are other things that you, as a client, need to do.

The steps that can be taken to minimise costs in family law matters, are as follows:-

  1. Having the right person do the right task – at Coleman Greig, we have hourly rates that vary by $415.00 per hour. That is a very wide range, and is reflective of the experience and expertise of the various people within the Coleman Greig Family Law Team. Coleman Greig will always use its best endeavours to ensure that the right person is doing the right task.
  2. Take the "heat" out of matters – clients are invariably angry with their separated partner, and often wish to ensure that their anger is conveyed through correspondence written by us. One of the features of the Judgment of Justice Benjamin referred to above is that the correspondence in those proceedings evidenced an inability by the solicitors to act in such a way as to take the "heat" out of the matter. Justice Benjamin said "Solicitors are not employed as "postmen" to vent the anger and vitriol of their client". We at Coleman Greig will not enter into "tit for tat" communications, which will simply increase your fees unnecessarily. If you wish to engage a solicitor that will enter into this sort of communication then consideration should be given to the appropriate firm to represent you.
  3. Mediation – all steps will be taken in a matter to ensure that Court is very much viewed as a "last resort". Litigating is a situation whereby you are putting those things that are most important to you (your possessions and children) into the hands of a stranger to make decisions on your behalf. Any decision that you can arrive at with your separated partner without the need for litigation, is one that is likely to prove to be far more satisfactory (and not only from a fee perspective). Coleman Greig always ensure that all possible alternative dispute resolution avenues are explored prior to proceedings being commenced.
  4. Arbitration – involves the matter being heard before an Arbitrator. The Arbitrator's award takes the same effect as if it was an order made by a Court.
  5. Work to be done by you – where appropriate, we will ask you to complete Court forms or otherwise undertake review of financial documents, to save you needing to pay the fees of us doing so.
  6. Acceptance of our advice – often, proposals will be put that we believe are commercial. There will be times that we will counsel a client to accept an offer. It is because we understand the facts of your matter, the way in which a Court is likely to deal with them, and the costs that you will incur in pursuing your claim before the Courts. Coleman Greig will always counsel you to accept reasonable proposals, or to put reasonable proposals to the other side.
  7. Accredited Specialist – at Coleman Greig we have three Accredited Specialists. Being an Accredited Specialist in Family Law means that the Law Society of New South Wales has recognised each practitioner, through undertaking a course of further study, to be an expert in that area.
  8. Updates – Coleman Greig will, at all times, give you a realistic estimate of your fees at the start of a matter and, acknowledging that matters almost always change in complexity and complexion, will provide estimates to give certainty as a matter progresses.

If you are considering separating, and giving thought to who it is that may represent you in your family law matter, careful consideration needs to be given to the points raised above. Coleman Greig is committed to ensuring that clients receive the best possible service, and that fees be charged that are as reasonable as possible given the circumstances of any individual matter.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Sign Up
Gain free access to lawyers expertise from more than 250 countries.
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Newsalert
Select Topics
Select Regions
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions