Breaking up can lead to massive legal bills

The price you pay for dissolving a marriage begins with unavoidable court fees.

The crippling cost of divorce

The cost of divorce can be crippling for those nearing retirement or already out of the workforce, thanks to the diminishing opportunity to earn sufficient income to recover from the legal expenses.

The price you pay for dissolving a marriage begins with unavoidable court fees. The Federal Circuit Court of Australia charges $1275 simply to apply for a divorce.

Depending on your financial circumstances, this can be reduced, but you will have to prove you cannot afford the higher fee.

The court has many types of charges on top of the fee to nullify a marriage, from $395 for a conciliation hearing to $1360, if you want to appeal.

If your divorce is going to be messy, necessitating a hearing, further court fees apply, and these can run into the thousands, depending on the procedures that must be carried out if there is a dispute.

And we haven’t even begun to talk about other legal costs. The cheapest divorces involve an amicable split mediated by a non-lawyer third party.

If you can’t agree on how to split your assets then calling in the big guns will set you back thousands of dollars just for a couple of meetings and telephone calls. If you can find a lawyer who charges less than $500 an hour to talk to you and work on your case, then you have scored a bargain.

Fortunately, unless your circumstances are very complicated, there is unlikely to be more than one or two court hearings. That is in part because since 1975, the no-fault law was introduced in Australia, eliminating the need to prove one spouse had wronged the other. Nowadays, the only reason you need to cite for wanting your marriage dissolved is that you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences.

However, there are various legal steps that need to be taken before the final hearing, making the whole process lengthy.

First, you must remain separated for 12 months and be able to prove it before filing for divorce. Thereafter, the legal cogs can grind for anywhere between three months to a year or more.

If you do need court representation, what you pay will depend on whether you have a junior or senior counsel. There are schedules of fees that you can use as a guide to estimate the total legal cost, but your lawyer may charge more.

According to guidance from the Law Institute of Victoria, a simple mention of your matter in court should cost $278. Preparation for a full-day hearing can set you back more than $4000.

Up to the hearing, a lawyer can be expected to charge a minimum of around $2000 for paperwork and advice. But there are more than 15 items on the schedule to cover the specific requirements of certain cases. It is important to get an estimate from a lawyer before you hire one, especially if your case is going to be contested.

Try to consider all the scenarios that may affect your application or your response to your spouse’s application, as unplanned circumstances and unexpected action by your spouse could lead to legal fees spiralling out of control.

Have you been through a costly divorce? If so, what was the greatest expense?


    Disclaimer: All content on YourLifeChoices website is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care but no guarantees are provided for the ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this information, you should consider its appropriateness in regard to your own circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances.


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    31st Aug 2018
    Collabrative law is the way to go. There are a lot of Collabrative lawyers practising in Family Law. Will certainly save you heaps of money.
    31st Aug 2018
    Have had to pay out 2 exes to keep the family roof over our (kids & my) heads-wasn't the legal costs but each partner collected over $100,000 each (some of it was theirs but mostly been my hard work 2 pay bank loan (morthage) to pay them out!! Any other women in my boat? Very costly splits-still paying my mortgage/loan off (57 now) & wouldve been sitting pretty in retirement long ago if i had been like most females i know after their divorce/splits who collected $ after divorces etc!! No man getting near me from now on i can tell you. Badly burned & bitter. Life is hard!
    31st Aug 2018
    Not me Cheezil but a couple of mates. One had to buy the half house from him and also give up half her superannuation. She's still working at close to 60 and looks like she'll keep at it for a while yet. He had no super and only owned his tools and van which she couldn't and wouldn't take.

    Another had 4 marriages and every one cost her. One even set her up using his checks while taking her cash so it looked like he'd paid for stuff. This is what happens when either men or women end up with dependent types. They become dependents and cost you.

    Don't be bitter but never ever live with them or let them live with you. It's better in the longer term that way. Or find one who isn't dependent.

    Not everyone raises independent kids. It's hard to make them fend for themselves and easy to gain importance by doing for them and "helping them out". If you meet men like that give them a wide berth. Independent souls won't take you for anything. They are the best kind.
    Karl Marx
    31st Aug 2018
    There a plenty of men who have been screwed big time by women. Don't ask me how I know.
    2nd Sep 2018
    Thanks you guys, am not alone by any means then. Cruel harsh world sometimes & no easy rides, but we're stronger now at least!
    31st Aug 2018
    I am 74 and finally paid off my mortgage last year. Marriage and divorce 30 years ago, took forever to get a settlement out of him, and in the end he pissed most of it away. It has been a struggle, but preferable to coping with a toxic relationship

    31st Aug 2018
    Any male that get's married these days is stark raving mad. Thanks to the baleful influence of feminism, they'll be royally screwed over in the even of a divorce. And there's a 50% chance of that happening!
    31st Aug 2018
    Or independent woman of means too.

    More women seem toplay the dependency card but there are dependent type guys out there.

    Maybe we should be looking at how we react and if we are seeking to be dependent or giving/caring for/looking after which is just as bad really isn't it?

    Two capable independent people looking after themselves first and you next would be better.

    I agree it's a minefield especially if you have assets and a good income.
    Karl Marx
    31st Aug 2018
    You don't have to be married. If you are living together the laws in this country treat you the same as common law husband & wife when it comes to dividing assets.
    31st Aug 2018
    There is no doubt that the only winners in property settlements are the lawyers. But as for divorce - I did it online myself for a fee of $800 back then. No court appearance - just administrative costs. I did attend court with a friend during his divorce hearing ( he had to appear as there was a dependent child involved ). What horrified me was how this court operated. Present papers, sit in court with many others, answer one or two questions and bang - it's all over. May as well say "I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you". Takes the same amount of time and is much cheaper!
    3rd Sep 2018
    Collabrative Family Law is the way to go.
    5th Sep 2018
    Follow Thoughtful's advice. Don't even think you will get a fair hearing if you finish up at the Female Family Court. It is loaded against the male even without any children in the mix.
    My son got plucked well and truly by the Female Family Court. Paid the EX wife house out, worked his guts out to provide. He was lucky to get some funds from his Grandmother's estate and purchased a boat so the family could use. Built a trailer from scratch. Female Family Court came to her rescue. The boat became an asset (no money from the family bank accounts), the trailer funded by overtime, wanted 1/2 his super even though she had more super. She drank 4-5 bottles of Jim Beam a week, did drugs then became a supplier to others. He moved away to get away from the drugs dealings etc.
    He came out with just enough for a small deposit for another house some 200kms away from the event. He battles from day to day to survive to pay the mortgage and live. Sometimes he is short so the Mum and Dad bank has to help out for him to eat. Did 25 years of hard work and savings. He looked after her two children. HE HAS NOT had any children and at 48 he will not have any.
    Yes the Female Family Court is alive and well.
    5th Sep 2018
    He obviously needed a much better lawyer than the one he had. Collabtrative Family Lawyers do their very very best to keep things out of the Family Courts.

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