FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Pricing

What are your fees?

 Unlike most law firms, we do not charge for the majority of our work on an hourly rate basis.

Instead, where practicable we charge fixed fees so that you have certainty about your costs and will never receive a surprise bill from us.

Our first conference with you is a Free 15-minute Introductory Call, for which there is no charge. 

If you wish to proceed after our Introductory Call, the fee for our Strategy & Advice Conference (up to 90 minutes) is $750 including GST. The fee also includes a written Action Plan provided to you after the conference. 

After the Strategy & Advice Conference, if you require our further assistance we will send you our fee proposal for the agreed work.

In cases where the full scope of work is clear, we generally offer a fixed fee for all of the work anticipated to complete your matter. 

In cases where the full scope of work is unclear (such as negotiations or Court matters) we have several different fee options. These include:

  • Stage-by-stage fixed fees, in which we break the case into stages and charge a fixed fee at each stage
  • Item-by-item charging, where we charge based on a schedule of fees and/or hourly rates, or
  • A combination of a fixed fee for the portion of the work that we are able to quote for, and item-by-item charging for the remainder of the work that is more uncertain in its nature or scope.

Can you provide me with a fixed fee quote before I meet you?

 FWe are unable to provide you with a quote before our Strategy & Advice Conference.

Because our fees will vary considerably depending on how complex the work is, it is essential that we have a detailed understanding of your case before we provide you with a fixed fee quote. 

In simple cases, we may be able to provide you with a preliminary indication of costs during our Free 15-minute Introductory Call, however this is not a binding quote. 

 

So your fees are fixed - but what happens if something changes?

Our fixed fee quote is attached to a Scope of Work that sets out with a high degree of precision what we will do for you.

The fee for the Scope of Work is fixed and does not change, even if it takes us longer than we planned to do the work.

However, if the Scope of Work needs to change, our fee will usually need to be revised. Any revision to our fixed fees will be confirmed in writing and agreed to by you in advance of us conducting the work. 

For example:

  • If you engage us for an out-of-court settlement but the case ends up requiring court proceedings, that would be a change to the Scope of Work and additional fees would apply.
  • However, if it takes us 10 hours to draft a set of documents that we quoted you thinking it would take us only 7 hours, we do not pass any additional cost on to you.

In some cases, we can alternatively charge for work that is outside the Scope of Work on an item-by-item basis using our schedule of fees (most items of which have a fixed cost). 

All fixed fee arrangements are documented in a detailed Costs Agreement and Disclosure Statement before we begin work.

What are your payment terms?

Our fee for our Strategy & Advice Conference is due immediately after the conference.

If you then engage us further, we require that you deposit the agreed fixed fee (or estimated fee amount) into our trust account before we commence work.

In complex cases that we break into multiple stages, we charge a fixed fee at each stage. In these cases, you deposit our fees for each stage at the beginning of the stage, so that you pay as you go.

Are there any options if I will have difficulty paying your fees?

We understand that you may be in a situation where your wealth is “locked up” in property or in the control of your former partner. 

In financial cases where you may have difficulty paying your ongoing fees, we can discuss the options with you which may include:

  • Negotiating an interim financial settlement involving payment to you or sale of assets to help fund your costs
  • If proper grounds exist, requesting that the other party funds your legal costs, and if they decline, seeking court orders requiring them to do so
  • Referring you to a legal funding provider

However, we will require that you pay our fees until such time as any external funding is secured. This includes the cost of the initial Strategy & Advice Conference and any further work required until you secure funding.    

Do you do Legal Aid work?

No, we do not do Legal Aid work.

If you are looking for a lawyer who does Legal Aid work, please contact Legal Aid in your state or territory for information.

Who we help

What kind of legal issues can you help with?

We work exclusively in family law, which deals the arrangements for property, finances and children after separation in a marriage or de facto relationship.

Please see our Expertise page for an overview of the kinds of cases we can assist in.

What States and Territories do you operate in?

We are based in Melbourne and our practice is based primarily in Victoria. 

However, in many cases we can also assist clients in other states and territories (other than Western Australia) who are happy to communicate with us by email, phone or video conference. 

Family law is mostly Commonwealth law which operates Australia-wide, and the family law courts are also generally flexible in permitting interstate practitioners to appear by video-link or telephone for procedural hearings.

Please note however that as Western Australia has its own state-based family law system, we do not take on cases in that state. 

We are well-equipped to assist interstate clients as we:

  • Operate a paperless office and have a professional electronic document management system
  • Provide you with access to our Client Portal where you can conveniently upload your information and documents to us
  • Offer secure electronic signing for most documents 
  • Offer online meetings by Zoom and Microsoft Teams
  • Have a network of interstate practitioners (particularly in Queensland, NSW and Tasmania) who we can engage on an “as needs” basis to conduct any work that requires an in-person or face-to-face attendance

If you are interstate and have any questions about whether we can assist you, please do not hesitate to Contact Us.

I am overseas - can you act for me?

Yes, we help many clients who are overseas, so long as the case involves a connection to Australia.

We are well-equipped to assist international clients as we:

  • Operate a paperless office and have a professional electronic document management system
  • Provide you with access to our Client Portal where you can conveniently upload your information and documents to us
  • Offer secure electronic signing for most documents 
  • Offer online meetings by Zoom and Microsoft Teams
  • Are happy to offer flexibility with meeting times if you are in another time zone
  • Have experience in financial, children’s, and child support cases involving international elements

Do you only act for professionals, executives and business owners?

We specialise in acting for professionals, executives and business owners, due to our premium service offering and our expertise in complex financial settlements, including settlements involving business valuations, self-managed superannuation funds, and taxation considerations

However, we are happy to help anyone who is looking for this level of service and expertise. 

My ex-parter and I are amicable - can you act for both of us?

No, we can never act for both you and your former partner in a family law case.

Even if things are amicable, this would be a conflict of interest and in breach of our professional duties.

However, if your former partner requires a referral to another lawyer and you consent, we would be happy to provide a list of several other family law practitioners who they may wish to make enquiries with.

Process

How do I get started with you?

It is easy to get started with us! 

The first step is to book a Free 15-minute Introductory Call, which you can book by clicking here. In this call, we will confirm if we can assist with your case, answer any questions you have about our services, and discuss the next steps. 

After the Introductory call, if you are ready to get started we will arrange a Strategy & Advice Conference.

The process working with us after our Introductory Call is set out on our Contact page.

What can you do for me?

We tailor our service to your circumstances and can do any of the following:

  • Provide you with confidential advice
  • Act for you to negotiate a settlement
  • Represent you in court proceedings
  • Help you formalise an agreement you have already reached with your former partner so it is binding

Please see our Expertise page for an overview of the kinds of cases we can assist in.

Do I have to get legal advice when I separate?

Most of the time it is not compulsory to obtain legal advice after separation, although we highly recommend that you do so.

We frequently see cases where a “Do it Yourself” separation (especially a financial settlement) results in significant issues that would have been avoided if the parties had received competent legal advice when they separated.

In some circumstances, for example making a prenup, a financial agreement as part of a financial settlement, or a Binding Child Support Agreement, it is a legal requirement that you and your former partner obtain legal advice for the agreement to be binding.

When is the best time to get legal advice after separation?

Without any doubt, the best time to get legal advice is as early as possible. 

In fact, you should ideally obtain legal advice before you separate if separation is looking likely. We find that clients who take this step are significantly more prepared when separation occurs and obtain significantly better outcomes.

Can I bring a family member, friend or support person to my meetings with you?

Yes, absolutely.

If there will be important people supporting you throughout your separation who you wish to be involved in the legal side of things, we welcome you to bring them along to your meetings with us. 

Please also note that the following persons should not attend your confidential legal conferences with us:

  • Your ex-partner, even if things are amicable
  • Any children aged under 18 
  • Any person who might be a potential witness in your case (without our confirmation)

Reaching settlement

When is a property settlement binding?

To be binding, a property settlement must be formalised as either:

  • Consent Orders of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, or
  • A financial agreement (which must meet strict technical requirements, including that you and your ex-partner each receive a Statement of Advice from an independent lawyer)

Which option is better will depend on a number of factors.

In some cases, we even use both Consent Orders (for the property settlement) and a financial agreement (for maintenance). 

We often act in cases where a Binding Child Support Agreement is also made as part of the settlement. 

Should I formalise my financial settlement so that it is binding?

In the vast majority of cases, our answer is “yes”, because formalising the agreement:

  • Provides greater certainty that the agreement reached will be honoured
  • Provides you with an avenue to enforce the settlement through the court if it is not complied with
  • With some limited exceptions, protects you from a future claim from your ex-partner
  • Can provide Capital Gains Tax (CGT) rollover relief to certain transactions covered by the agreement
  • Can in some cases also help protect your estate from a claim by your former partner if you die

Do I need to get divorced before I can do a property settlement?

No.

In Australia, divorce is a separate process to a financial settlement, and you can do a financial settlement before or after you obtain a divorce.

However, please be aware of the time limitation once a divorce takes effect (see the next question).

What are the time limits to reach a settlement?

If you are married, there is a time limit of 12 months from the date the divorce becomes final to issue court proceedings about a financial settlement (not including child support).

If you were in a de facto relationship, there is a time limit of 2 years from the date of separation (note: this includes separation “under one roof”) to issue court proceedings about financial matters.

Please also be aware that in de facto relationships, the date of separation is often contested.

Once the time limit expires:

  • Court proceedings can only be issued with permission of the court
  • It is still possible to formalise a consent settlement if you and your former partner both agree

Please seek our urgent advice if the time limit is close to expiring in your case.

When is an agreement about children's arrangements binding?

To be binding, an agreement about children’s arrangements must be formalised as Consent Orders of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

For child support, the agreement must be formalised as a Binding Child Support Agreement or Limited Child Support Agreement. In some cases, court orders can also be obtained by consent about child support although this is complex. 

 

We have agreed about children's arrangements - should I get court orders?

In most cases where things are amicable (or at least cooperative) and there are no risk issues, it is perfectly acceptable for parents to have a non-binding arrangement for children such as:

  • A verbal agreement
  • An agreement evidenced in writing
  • A signed agreement or Parenting Plan

Cases in which we recommend court orders to formalise a consent parenting arrangement include if:

  • There is a risk the agreed arrangements will not be complied with
  • Authority is needed for one parent to obtain passports without requiring the other parent’s consent
  • A parent lives overseas or is likely to travel overseas in the future and there are any concerns that the children will not be returned to Australia

For child support arrangements, we recommend seeking our specific advice, as this is complicated.

See our page on Children’s arrangements for further information.

My former partner and I have already reached an agreement - can you help?

Yes, we can help you by giving advice on the agreement and helping you to formalise it in a way which is binding.

In these cases it is our aim to assist you formalise your settlement as promptly as possible and without over-complicating things, whilst also ensuring that the proper steps are taken to advise you in your interests and protect the integrity of the process so that the agreement is binding. 

Generally the steps involved are:

  • We start with a Free 15-Minute Introductory Call (which you can book here) to make sure we are a good fit to assist with your case and answer any questions you have about our services. This call is with you only (your former partner cannot be on the call)
  • We then arrange a Strategy & Advice Conference with you where we will provide you with advice about the agreement and the steps required to formalise it
  • We will write to your former partner seeking confirmation from them (or their lawyer, if they engage a lawyer) about the terms of the agreement
  • In some cases, due diligence steps may be required (e.g. valuations, title searches, further financial disclosure, etc)
  • We draft the settlement documents 
  • Once you approve the settlement documents, we provide drafts to your ex-partner (or their lawyer) for their review
  • Once the settlement documents are agreed to, they are signed (and, in the case of Consent Orders, filed with the Court)
  • Once the settlement is binding, steps may be required to implement the settlement (e.g. making payments, transferring real estate or businesses, splitting superannuation, etc), which we will provide advice to you about

To get started, please book a Free 15-Minute Introductory Call by clicking here.

We also recommend that your former partner receives their own legal advice in this process, as we can only act for you. If they would like (and you consent) we can provide your former partner with some names of other family law practitioners who they may wish to make enquiries with. 

My ex-partner's lawyers have prepared settlement documents - can you advise me?

Yes, we can advise you.

In these cases it is our aim to assist you formalise your settlement as promptly as possible, whilst also ensuring that you have a full understanding of the proposed arrangements including any risks to you. 

The first step is to book a Free 15-Minute Introductory Call (which you can book here) to make sure we are a good fit to assist with your situation and answer any questions you have about our services.

We will then organise a Strategy & Advice Conference where we will review the documents and provide preliminary advice.

The advice we are required to provide you is much more comprehensive than many people realise. It includes advice about:

  • Whether the documents actually reflect what you have agreed in-principle with your former partner
  • Whether the proposed settlement is fair to you from a legal perspective
  • Whether there are any significant risks or disadvantages to you of the proposed settlement
  • The technical drafting of the documents and the “fine print”
  • Any recommended amendments
  • Any recommended due diligence steps (e.g. valuations, searches, further financial disclosure, etc)

If you do not require any changes to the documents or any due diligence steps, we will provide you with a fixed cost quote to:

  • Confirm our advice in a detailed Letter of Advice
  • Arrange a second conference for you to sign the documents
  • Facilitate the exchange of the fully signed documents, and 
  • If required, assist with the implementation of the settlement

If further steps are required before the documents can be signed, we will provide you with a fixed cost quote for the agreed work.

 

I haven't been able reach agreement with my ex-partner - will we have to go to court?

Court is an option of last resort and is only necessary if:

  • A settlement cannot be reached after genuine steps are taken to resolve it out-of-court, or
  • There are matters (such as significant family violence, child abuse, etc) that make out-of-court negotiation innapropriate, or
  • There is an important matter that urgently requires the court’s attention  

In the vast majority of cases we act in, we are able to achieve a resolution without the need for Court proceedings.

Prenups (financial agreements)

Do I need to be getting married to make a prenup (financial agreement)?

No, you don’t need to be getting married.

You can make a prenup (financial agreement) if you and your partner are:

  • Engaged to be married (or otherwise “contemplating” marriage)
  • Already married
  • “Contemplating” beginning a de facto relationship, or
  • Already in a de facto relationship

Should I make a prenup (financial agreement)?

We think that a prenup (financial agreement) is strongly worth considering if you are about to start or in the early stages of a marriage or de facto relationship and one of the following applies:

  • You are bringing significant wealth or a high income into the relationship
  • You are a business owner and wish to avoid the need for potentially complex negotiations if you separate (which may involve your business being valued and being taken into account in the financial settlement)
  • You are expecting to receive a significant inheritance in the future
  • You are expecting to receive significant financial support from your family (e.g. gifted funds to purchase a home) in the future
  • You are intending to keep your finances separate from your partner during the relationship and after separation
  • You are living overseas but have a connection to Australia, and you want to ensure that if you separate that your financial settlement will be dealt with under the law of another country, not Australian law
  • You wish to have certainty in relation to your financial settlement if you ever separate  

Do prenups (financial agreements) stand up in court?

A prenup (financial agreement) will be binding and can be enforced in court if certain legal criteria are met, including:

  • You and your partner each receive your own independent legal advice and each lawyer issues a statement of advice 
  • Other technical requirements set out in the Family Law Act 1975 are complied with, and 
  • The agreement is not set aside by a Court in accordance with sections 90K and 90UM 

As part of the advice process, we will discuss with you in detail when a prenup will not stand up in court and the steps we can take to give the prenup the highest chance of being binding. 

In our view, the vast majority of reported cases in which a prenup did not stand up in court involved one or more of the following:

  • The lawyers who prepared or advised on the agreement not being specialists in family law
  • Poorly-drafted agreements
  • No meaningful negotiations
  • Fraudulent behaviour by one of spouses
  • One party being unduly pressured to sign or signing under “undue influence”
  • Agreements made in a rush (e.g. “ink on the wedding dress”)
  • Changes in circumstances after the agreement is made relating to children
  • Old agreements made when the law permitting financial agreements was still new by lawyers did not appreciate the strictness of the technical drafting requirements

A prenup will have the best chance of being binding if:

  • Both parties are represented by competent lawyers who specialise in family law and adhere to the technical legal requirements
  • The terms of the agreement are well-tailored to your and your partner’s specific circumstances, and
  • The agreement is meaningfully negotiated and full financial disclosure takes place

How do I get started if I am thinking of making a prenup (financial agreement)?

The first step is to book a Free 15-Minute Introductory Call (which you can book here) to make sure we are a good fit to assist with your situation and answer any questions you have about our services.

If you wish to proceed, we will then organise a Strategy & Advice Conference where we will advise you of:

  • The pros and cons of a prenup in your situation
  • What is likely to happen if you separate without a prenup
  • Options for how a prenup can be structured 
  • The process to negotiate and make a prenup
  • The cost to make a prenup in your case

Many clients tell us they find this advice invaluable, even if they do not ultimately proceed with a prenup.

My partner's lawyers have prepared a prenup (financial agreement) - can you advise me?

 

Yes, we can advise you.

However, you should be aware that if the agreement is primarily protecting your partner’s financial interests, it is very likely that we will advise you:

  • Not to sign the agreement, unless it provides adequately for you
  • That it would be reasonable for your partner to pay your legal costs for negotiating and making the agreement, and  
  • That the best agreements are those which are meaningfully negotiated with the benefit of legal advice.

The first step is to book a Free 15-Minute Introductory Call (which you can book here) to make sure we are a good fit to assist with your situation and answer any questions you have about our services.

We will then organise a Strategy & Advice Conference where we will review the documents and provide preliminary advice.

The advice we are required to provide you is much more comprehensive than many people realise and includes advice about:

  • The advantages and disadvantages to you of the agreement
  • Whether the agreement is drafted to appropriately cover the relationship as it increases in length and in the event of children or other significant life events
  • The technical drafting of the documents and the “fine print”
  • When the agreement will be binding and the circumstances in which it can be set aside
  • Any recommended amendments
  • Any recommended due diligence steps (e.g. valuations, searches, further financial disclosure, etc)

If you do not require any changes to the agreement and any or due diligence steps, we will provide you with a fixed cost quote to:

  • Confirm our advice in a detailed Letter of Advice
  • Arrange a second conference for you to sign the agreement and for us to sign our Statement of Advice, and
  • Facilitate the exchange of the fully signed agreement

If further steps are required before the agreement can be signed, we will provide you with a fixed cost quote for the agreed work.

Due to their serious nature and in line with case law, it is our strict policy that we do not “sign off” on these agreement in our first conference. At minimum, you must have received our Letter of Advice and attended a second conference before we provide you with our signed Statement of Advice and before you sign the agreement.