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Involved in a Family Law Dispute? How to Save Money (Part 1)
Legal fees can be very expensive when it comes to family matters. It is often time consuming and emotionally draining. Here are a few things you can do to ensure that you end up with more and your legal bill a bit lighter.
“It’s Not About the Money, It’s a Matter of Principle”
Words that bring joy to every solicitor when uttered by a client. Principles cost money and in some cases lots of money. Whilst it is important to stick to your principles, is it really worth it if the costs to do so are astronomical? Give me a client with principles and I’ll show you my ticket to my next holiday destination.
A typical example is the story about the couple who were fighting over property settlement for a number of years. The asset pool was worth in excess of $10M. One sunny afternoon, the wife’s solicitor rang the husband’s solicitor and said ‘We have an agreement’. After much rejoicing, high fives and back slapping the terms of the agreement were provided to the husband for his consideration. The husband’s reaction was a typical Australian reaction of ‘Yeah, nah!’ ‘She’s left out my DVD collection of western movies’.
And so the negotiations continued for another 6 months. Letters exchanged between the two solicitors, countless meetings with clients all of which meant escalating fees. The husband said ‘It’s a matter of principle’ and so it continued. Eventually the wife conceded, orders were made and the husband received the entire DVD collection of western movies.
More rejoicing, back slapping and high fives and everyone went their separate ways until about 3 or 4 months later the husband rang his solicitor and uttered the words “She replaced the DVD with romantic comedies!”
“I Want to Take Him for Everything He’s Got”
The only reason that litigation exists is because at least one of the parties is not prepared to compromise their expectation.
Whenever I have a client who is not prepared to compromise on property settlement I always tell them ‘There is no winner. Neither party is going to be happy. The person who is due to receive something by way of property settlement always believes they should have received more and the person who is required to pay always thinks they are paying too much’ and that’s on top of their legal bills. If both parties are unhappy then both parties have made a real compromise.
The Family Court is a court of discretion and will attempt to find a compromise. Family laws try to discourage litigation by offering an array of alternative dispute resolution operation including collaborative law, mediation and arbitration. The court requires parties involved in a dispute about parenting matters to attend a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner prior to commencing proceedings. Even after proceedings have been commenced, the court usually makes initial orders that the parties attend mediation, Children Dispute Conferences and or Conciliation Conferences in an effort to encourage parties to resolve their dispute without the further involvement of the court.
Compromise might mean you take a little less or give a little more and may not be your desired outcome, but it does save you money.