How Much Do Family Lawyers Cost in Australia?

Family Lawyer Cost

By Ezra Sarajinsky

· Read time: 8 minutes

Most family lawyers in Australia charge on an hourly basis, at between $300 and $600 per hour.

No one enters a relationship with the anticipation of needing legal assistance to navigate the aftermath of a breakup.

However, the reality is that life becomes complex, finances become intertwined, and the parenting of needs of children have to be managed. Family lawyers are experts who untangle these knots.

Understanding potential legal costs can help you to make informed decisions and plan accordingly as you start dealing with the complexities of separation or divorce.

Can the costs of a family lawyer be accurately estimated?

It can be difficult to provide exact costings for family lawyers, particularly as the legal issues around separation can be complex, and are very dependent on the way the couple manage disputes. Where the negotiations around separation become drawn out, or go through multiple rounds of court, then legal fees will increase. 

Benefits of hiring a family lawyer for your case

Family lawyers bring a lot of value. They are guiding you through a difficult process, at the end of which you should achieve resolution that will bring you something close to a fresh start. 

The Separation process deals with large financial amounts, and the future of your children. There is a lot at stake, and most family lawyers are well aware of this and the sensitivities required – and will be oriented to obtaining the most favourable outcome possible for you.

Engaging a family lawyer presents numerous advantages:

  1. Legal Expertise: Seasoned lawyers bring extensive expertise in family law, ensuring precise and efficient handling of your case.
  2. Strategic Counsel: A family lawyer offers tailored strategic advice, guiding you through the legal process and empowering you to make well-informed decisions.
  3. Emotional Support: Family law matters often come with emotional challenges. A lawyer provides objective support, alleviating stress and emotional strain.

Attempting to save costs by forgoing legal assistance can prove counterproductive. Errors in legal procedures or documentation may result in unfavourable outcomes, prolonged court proceedings, and ultimately, escalated expenses.

What factors can impact the cost of a family lawyer?

Every family law matter is different, and the costs for your lawyer will vary based on the length that the case takes, the complexity of it, the expertise level of the lawyer engaged, and whether your matter has to go into the Court system. 

Let’s take a look at some of these factors.

Case Complexity

Complex cases demand thorough consideration, time, and preparation. Factors contributing to complexity include property or asset division, child custody disputes (including matters related to child support, visitation, and custody arrangements), and the necessity for additional services such as family mediation.

Expertise Level of the Lawyer

The expertise and experience of the lawyer significantly impact family court costs. Seasoned professionals specialising in Family Law may charge around $600 per hour, while junior lawyers, still honing their skills, typically charge around $300 per hour. Experienced lawyers bring years of knowledge and understanding to efficiently advise, represent, negotiate, and navigate the legal system, ultimately working towards the best outcome for their clients, albeit at a higher initial cost.

Location of the Lawyer

The geographical location of the lawyer also influences costs, with practitioners in larger metropolitan areas often commanding higher fees than those in rural or smaller towns. Additionally, family lawyer costs vary from state to state.

Specific Legal Services Needed

The nature of required legal services and the specific area of law involved significantly impact costs. Matters such as divorce, child custody disputes, or property settlements entail varying complexities and procedural requirements, with specialised expertise often associated with higher fees.

Length of the Case

The duration of the case, influenced by its complexity and the parties’ ability to negotiate or reach agreement, directly affects costs. A swifter, more straightforward process typically translates to lower expenses.

Conflict Level Between Parties

Heightened conflict levels between parties can escalate legal costs, necessitating increased time and effort from the lawyer for negotiation and mediation.

Document and Application Filing Requirements

The complexity of case documentation and filing needs can contribute to additional legal expenses, as lawyers may spend more time on preparation and submission.

Involvement of the Court System

Cases progressing to court typically involve higher legal expenses due to extensive preparation, documentation, and representation requirements.

Need for Additional Resources

The requirement for expert witnesses, external resources, or alternative dispute resolution methods can influence costs. While these may incur extra fees, they can expedite the resolution process, potentially reducing overall expenses.

In some instances, external mediators or other resources might resolve matters more efficiently, thereby reducing overall costs. However, in cases requiring expert witnesses or further dispute resolution methods, such as litigation or mediation, additional expenses may range from $5,000 to $15,000 or more. Litigation fees for negotiations or mediation typically range from $10,000 to $30,000, while engaging Counsel for final hearings may incur fees ranging from $200 to $600 per hour, depending on their fee structure.

How Family Lawyers Bill

The billing methods and fee structures employed by family lawyers can significantly impact overall costs. Several common billing methods include:

Itemised Billing

Many law firms adopt an itemised billing approach, wherein clients are charged based on the lawyer’s hourly rate and the specific services utilised in their case. Clients receive detailed invoices outlining the services rendered and the corresponding time spent.

Fixed Fee or Agreed Pricing

Some lawyers offer fixed fees or agreed pricing, providing clients with a predetermined total cost for handling their matter, irrespective of the time expended on the case.

Subscription Pricing

Under this fee structure, clients make regular payments—whether monthly, quarterly, or annually—to access legal advice and services within a defined scope from their lawyer.


Certain lawyers may require clients to pay a retainer, which serves as an upfront deposit credited towards future fees. Retainer amounts typically range from $1,500 to $20,000, depending on the complexity of the matter. 

Subsequent charges are then billed according to the lawyer’s hourly rate, and if the retainer funds are depleted, additional payments may be requested to replenish the retainer trust account, contingent upon the needs of the case.

How to Manage Costs

While saving money is important, it shouldn’t be the primary consideration when hiring a lawyer; instead, focus on their qualifications and reputation. Here are some strategies to help reduce case costs:

  • Minimise conflict with your ex-partner to avoid prolonging the case.
  • Communicate openly with your lawyer and promptly provide any necessary paperwork.
  • Follow your lawyer’s advice regarding your children and partner.
  • To avoid surprises on your legal bills, consider the following tips:
  • Stay organised and provide information and documents to your lawyer promptly.
  • Request regular reviews of your bills for transparency.
  • Seek clarification from your lawyer on any unclear aspects before proceeding.
  • Explore alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or negotiation.
  • Inquire about fee waivers and payment plans if needed.

Utilise Your Free Consultation

Many family lawyers offer complimentary consultations, providing an opportunity to assess whether a particular lawyer or law firm is the right fit for your needs, especially in sensitive and emotional family law matters. Take advantage of this session to ask pertinent questions and gain clarity on your circumstances.

Prepare for Your Consultation

Before your consultation, compile a list of questions to ensure you cover all relevant topics. Additionally, remember to provide your family lawyer with comprehensive details during the consultation to ensure their advice is tailored to your specific situation.

Strive for Out-of-Court Resolution

Whenever possible, aim to resolve issues outside of court. Experienced family lawyers excel at resolving even the most contentious situations without resorting to litigation, which can help minimise costs and streamline the process, reducing stress for all parties involved.

Provide Comprehensive Information

Be open and transparent with your family lawyer, providing all relevant information from the outset, even if you’re uncertain about its relevance. Omitting details can complicate matters and hinder your lawyer’s ability to provide accurate advice.

Stay Prepared and Organised

Maximise the efficiency of your lawyer’s time by being well-prepared and organised. Respond promptly to information requests and ensure punctuality for appointments to avoid unnecessary delays and additional charges.

Minimise Unnecessary Communication

While thorough communication is essential, be mindful of unnecessary interactions that may incur additional charges, such as travel expenses, phone calls, emails, and text messages. Focus on pertinent matters to make efficient use of your lawyer’s time.

Optimise Use of Your Lawyer’s Time

Recognise the value of your lawyer’s time, especially if they charge hourly rates. Make the most of your consultations by preparing queries and concerns in advance, facilitating clear and efficient communication for swift resolution of your case.

Wrap up

At Movement Legal we offer fixed fees for many services, and aim to be as transparent as possible with the fees our clients can expect.

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