How much is the cost of Divorce in Australia?

How much will your divorce cost?

How long is a piece of string?

Don’t you hate it when people answer a question with a question?

There are essentially two components to the overall divorce cost.  The first component I can answer very easily – How much does a divorce cost?  $550.  Add another $250-$500 if you get a solicitor to fill in the forms for you.  The second component, separation cost, is what people are really thinking about when they discuss cost.  How much will it cost me to divide the assets and get a court order regarding child access?

This one is a lot more tricky to answer and the bottom line is, no one can really tell you how much your separation will cost because it will rely heavily on you, your relationship with your ex partner and how much you use your lawyer(s) and other professionals to help you.  Also when considering cost, there is the cost of giving away some, or even most, of your assets.  On the flip side, you may be anticipating receiving some money which would offset the legal fees.

There is also of course the emotional cost of going through a separation and divorce, the impact on the children and so on.  For the purposes of this discussion, we will only consider the financial cost of the legal and professional fees.

Legal Fees

So, getting down to business – A family law solicitor is going to cost you at least $330 an hour – I’ve never heard of a cheaper rate, but you may be lucky and find a solicitor who charges less.  For a partner of a firm you may pay somewhere around $550 an hour.  Some firms give the first half an hour to a full hour free but don’t expect much actual advice in this initial consultation.  This is treated more like a two way interview – you’re assessing their suitability to represent you, but the solicitor is also assessing your capacity to retain a solicitor (ie. can you pay?) as well as deciding whether or not they will take you on as a client (ie. do they like you).

So from that price point, you should be able to calculate approximately how much your legal fees are going to be.

See how easy it is?

This figure will of course depend heavily on how quickly you can come to an agreement with your ex spouse.  If everything is amicable and the division of assets and any time spent with the children is easily negotiated, it would probably cost less than $1000 to get consent orders drawn up and submitted by a solicitor.

The next stage is to go to dispute resolution (mediation) to sort out any outstanding issues.  This can be relatively cheap ($70/hr) if you use someone like Relationships Australia or a lot more expensive if you use an independent mediator.  Money spent here is very well spent.  If you think your session is going to take longer than 90 minutes then it may be worth getting an independent mediator as needed as Relationships Australia limits sessions to 90 minutes and the waiting list is long (6+ weeks last I checked).   Dispute resolution can cost anywhere from $100-$1,000.

After dispute resolution, if you still haven’t worked out all the issues, the next step is to file application(s) to have your case heard in court.  This is where it starts getting expensive and depends a lot on how you use your solicitor (if you use one – see Do I need a solicitor?).  When you actually get to court, you will be paying for a different lawyer (a barrister) to appear before the judge which is usually more expensive again and adds to the cost.  To appear before a judge and get some interim orders, you should factor in roughly $5,000-$7,000 if your solicitor does all the legwork.

From here the sky is almost literally the limit.  The next step would be back to court in the conciliation conference or directions hearing and this step would cost an additional $5,000-$7,000, bringing the total to somewhere around $10-15,000.  To go to a full trial (and only 5% of cases usually do), you’re looking at paying at least $25,000.

Payment Terms

Unless you’re almost guaranteed to be on the receiving end of any settlement, you will be asked to pay the solicitor a lump sum, in cash and in advance.  An initial deposit of $2,000 or so before a solicitor will even look at your case and start sending letters is fairly normal.  Once you have made a few payments on time, I found that you can start paying is arrears, but that was only after I had given my solicitor a nice chunk of cash already.

Paying $7,000 into a solicitors trust fund will make you want to reconsider negotiating with your spouse!  Each side is responsible for paying their own legal fees so any way you can reduce those fees is money straight into your pocket.

If you would like to find out more about how to reduce your legal costs and learn techniques to achieve the best possible outcome for you divorce, check out our Divorce Guide for men

81 Comments

  1. Darrell Andrews /

    Hi
    My wife and I have been separated since October 2007 and we had 2 properties signed over to each other and there are no money requests and she is happy and not wanting and I the same. All that is needed now is a Decree Nici to make complete. A straight forward divorce with no obligations for either party and no grievances whatsoever . Both parties only want the legal piece of paper, is this possible

    Kind regards

    Darrell Andrews


  2. Sharon /

    Hi
    I would like to know where I stand with a divorce settlement legal account that is out of control, $20,000+, If I don’t pay the account in full when the matter is finalised what action can the lawyers take? I am living in the UK and am dependent on elderly parents. I’m currently unemployed and being treated for a mental health condition related to all the stress & financial stress that the divorce has put me under. I have received nothing from the divorce settlement. Surely I should have been told at the beginning that my legal fees would be so high that they would out weigh any payout I got from the divorce settlement? Sadly this equated to $0.
    I want to know what the solicitors can do to me, if I’m unable to pay???
    Any advice gratefully received.


  3. Hi i have been seperated for over a year now and my ex husband has asked me for a divorce. I have herd that who ever files for the divorce pays for it, is this true?


    • Hi Lisa, yes the fee is paid by the person who files the application with the court.


  4. I have been told that one day a year you can apply for a divorce and there is no (government) charge – is this true and if so when?


  5. I had what could be described as an acrimonious separation. I have not gone after assets, only custody of our son (4 yrs old at the time).

    My experience was that the cost of the case kept getting revised upwards and extended. Essentially, my experience would dictate that you cannot rely on what your solicitors tell you regarding the cost.

    My ex is very litigious and well capitalised, whereas I was/am not. A strategy that was used very successfully by her was to bleed me financially via regular legal correspondence, each of which would cost into the several hundred and more often than not, thousands of dollars.

    The solicitor I used was a junior, so that meant $330 per hour at that time. I had two interim orders in total, legal correspondence, assessment by a court appointed psychologist of myself and her who then prepared a family report (the court paid for this, but for a colleague of mine, the psych. report was paid out of pocket ($12,000)).

    Either way, all of this is before a final hearing and set me back $18,000 in 2010, so that would be more now. The final hearing was quoted at a total cost of about $25,000. Of course, these figures would probably have worked out to be very rubbery, but I ran out of money and could not afford a final hearing.

    I prepared to represent myself at the final hearing, but just before the hearing date (a few day prior to it), she blinked and I managed to get sign-off on consent orders.

    My advice would be to purchase a bit of time with a solicitor so that you familiarize yourself with writing an affidavit and other processes. This should cost not much more than a few thousand. Beyond that, unless you are well capitalized, it will send you bankrupt.

    Note in my initial sentence that I did not go after assets (it’s another story, but basically, I feared that my custody outcome would be severely impacted by it, so weighing up the cost/benefit of it, I decided against it). The cost of course would be even greater had I done that.

    So my final minimum estimate for a custody case of someone who is like my ex, using the cheapest legal advice (note that sometimes this can turn out to be more expensive than using a partner) comes to $43,000 in 2010. Add to this several more thousands for a case now.

    My initial estimate when I spoke to the partner was that the cost would be about $13 – $15,000.


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