How much does a family lawyer cost?

The Most Asked Question: Cost

The cost of Family Law matters is often the most asked question. The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia have noted that the average cost for a matter at a final hearing is $30,000 per person. However, with the right family lawyer, resolving Family Law matters can be both cost-effective and beneficial for all parties involved.

Services Offered by Family Lawyers

Family lawyers provide a wide range of services to cater to your legal needs. Below is a breakdown of the services offered by family lawyers along with an approximate cost range.

Service Approximate Cost Range
Divorce Proceedings $15,000 – $30,000
Child Custody and Support $3,000 – $40,000
Alimony/Spousal Support $2,000 – $20,000
Property Division starting from $20,000
Pre-nuptial and Post-nuptial Agreements $2,000 – $10,000
Adoption $8,000 – $40,000
Domestic Violence Cases $3,000 – $10,000
Mediation $1,000 – $10,000
Guardianship $5,000 – $50,000
Paternity Cases $3,000 – $15,000
Child Relocation $5,000 – $20,000
Modification of Court Orders $3,000 – $10,000
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) $2,000 – $10,000

This table provides a general overview of the services and the corresponding costs, helping you to get an idea of the potential expenses involved.

Understanding Party and Party Costs

Party and party costs refer to the costs payable by one party to another under the Family Law Rules or by court order. These costs usually include the professional time of a lawyer, work done in a lawyer’s office, and associated costs like process server fees. The Scale of Costs in Schedule 3 of the Family Law Rules calculates the costs, unless the Court orders otherwise.

Fresh applications in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia can include Initiating Applications, Application for Divorce, Application for Consent Orders, contempt, contravention, enforcement applications, appeals, and more.

Disputing an Itemised Account for Party and Party Costs

A person entitled to costs must serve an itemised account and a Costs Notice on the liable party. Disputing an itemised costs account involves several steps:

  1. Serve a Notice Disputing Itemised Costs Account on the lawyer.
  2. Contact the party seeking payment to discuss resolution options.
  3. If unresolved, either party can ask the Court to rule on the dispute.
  4. The Court fixes a date for a settlement conference, preliminary assessment, or assessment hearing.
  5. Both parties must attend the Settlement Conference or be represented by a lawyer.
  6. The Preliminary Assessment is conducted without the parties’ attendance.
  7. Both parties must attend the Assessment Hearing or be represented by a family lawyer.

More information and relevant time limits are outlined in the Costs Notice.

Legal Advice

If you have any legal questions about costs, it’s advised to get legal advice from a legal aid office, community legal centre, or a private law firm. Court staff can assist with questions about court forms and the Court process but cannot provide legal advice. For more information, see Legal Help.

Factors Determining Family Lawyer Fees

Numerous factors influence Family Lawyer fees, such as the complexity of the case, the expertise of the lawyer, firm location, and billing methods. These aspects are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Complexity of Case

Family law matters around children or relationship breakdown can average around $30,000 per person. Complex cases, involving substantial property pools and multiple entities, can exceed $100,000 per person.

Expertise and Experience of Lawyers

Experienced lawyers may charge between $3,000 to $6,000 per day in court, whereas junior lawyers charge less. A solicitor specialising in family law deals with family law matters more regularly than a generalist. For more information on the cost differences between experienced and junior lawyers, refer to this article.

Billing Methods

Family Lawyers may require a retainer ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. Hourly rates can range from $200 to $500. Unused fees from the retainer may be refunded. Fixed fees can also be charged for specific services.

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Family Lawyer

  • What is your hourly rate and potential rates of other individuals who may work on my matter?
  • Do you charge additionally for travel time, phone calls, meetings, and emails?
  • Can you estimate your initial fees and what do those fees cover?
  • Are there any additional expenses that I can expect? If so, what are they?
  • Are you able to offer a fixed fee agreement for any aspects of my case?
  • What are my billing and payment options?

Maintaining Control of Costs

To minimise costs, be organised, review bills regularly, ask for clarification, consider alternative pathways such as mediation, and explore eligibility for fee waivers and payment plans.


Legal fees depend on the unique circumstances of each Family law matter. Choosing a good family lawyer will help achieve the best result for you and your family, providing value that makes the monetary investment worthwhile.

Understanding the Legal Jargon

Family law includes terms like time-costing and fixed fees. Time-costing involves billing based on time spent, while fixed fees charge a set amount for specific services.

The Court Process and Its Implications

Family court lawyer costs include court filing fees, costs for preparing and serving documents and possibly hiring expert witnesses.

Negotiating a Settlement

Some cases might be settled out of court, reducing the overall cost. This involves negotiations or mediation leading to a mutually agreeable solution.

Choosing the Right Family Lawyer

Choosing the best family lawyer involves considering experience, expertise, fee structure, and your comfort level with the family lawyer.

Final Words

The cost of hiring a family lawyer can greatly vary and depends on numerous factors. Discuss the fees upfront and ensure that you’re comfortable with the proposed fee structure.

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