23 Jun 2015
Keeping legal costs down is something which resonates with all family law clients.  
Section 117(1) of the Family Law Act 1975 (“the Act”) states that each party bear their own costs, unless the Family Court finds that there are circumstances that justify a costs order.  If the Court does make an order that one party pay legal costs to the other under section 117(2) of the Act  the order may be quite modest.
Section 117(2A) of the Act lists the factors the Court must have regard to in considering what order (if any) for costs should be made.  These include: the financial circumstances of the parties; whether either party is a recipient of legal aid; the conduct of the parties (for example failure of one party to provide certain documents); whether the proceedings were necessitated by failure of a party to comply with previous orders; whether a party has been wholly unsuccessful in the proceedings; and the terms of any offer made by either party.
The costs associated with separating from a spouse are significant, which need to be weighed up before a final decision to separate can be made.  These costs include: the emotional costs to both parties; the emotional and developmental costs for the children; the costs of  supporting two households or remaining separated under the one roof; the cost of needing two sets of most things for the children; child support; spousal maintenance; re-training; legal costs; accounting costs and counselling costs.
At HHG we have the following tips for separating couples:
1. Prepare a chronology with key dates and important information;
2. Prepare a list of all current assets and liabilities;
3. Compile a list of documents which corroborate values of assets, liabilities and contributions, income and state of health.  As the case develops we will allocate further work a client may do themselves;
4. Continue to provide full disclosure of all financial interests until a property settlement has been finalised.
When it comes to keeping costs down, at HHG Legal Group we:
1. explore the option of reconciliation between the parties;
2. remind our clients that the less that is spent on legal costs, the more property there will be to divide between the parties;
3. remind our clients that if their matter is resolved quickly and amicably, there will be less emotional impact on the children and on both parties;
4. encourage and guide our clients to attend to work that they can do themselves which will assist in keeping their costs down and advance their case; 
5. provide regular cost estimates to our clients to enable them to weigh up likely costs against any benefits gained in pursuing an action or claim;
6. assist our clients in making well considered, rational decisions;
7. encourage  our clients to be open to a variety of options for settlement and to treat their property settlement as one would a business transaction;
8. remind our clients that the Family Court expects parties to make every effort to resolve matters by agreement before commencing Court proceedings; 
9. remain focussed on a conciliatory approach with the other party; and
10. encourage our clients to work closely with other professionals, for example accountants, financial advisors, counsellors, psychologist, psychiatrist.
At HHG Legal Group we recognise the danger in parties preparing complex legal documents themselves.  Whilst this may initially appear to save money, inevitably it will be more expensive long term to rectify the errors or to fill in any gaps, and some errors simply cannot be fixed. 
Family Law is a complex jurisdiction, both legally and procedurally.  We recommend both parties engage an experienced family lawyer soon after separation and, in a lot of cases, before separation.  
Obtaining written legal advice from an experienced family lawyer very early will provide clarity about rights and entitlements, and responsibilities in the family law legal process and will aid in ongoing negotiations.
This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office on Freecall 1800 609 945 or email us now.

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