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Eye-watering costs of family law disputes

Type of protection : Granting release

And the wealthy — rich enough to fight every procedural point — are soaking up more court resources, blowing out court waiting times for low-to-middle-income Australians desperate to finalise their cases.

An appetite is building within the Federal Government to crack down on outrageous gouging by lawyers, who are being accused of getting flush from family misery.

Attorney-General Christian Porter, who recently announced a parliamentary inquiry into family law and child support, strongly implied reform was needed.

“We need to ensure our courts which deal with these matters are focused on helping families get through the process as cheaply, quickly and efficiently as possible,’’ Mr Porter exclusively told The Courier-Mail.

“(We also need to ensure) legal fee structures do not create a situation where asset pools are all but diminished, making it extremely difficult for people to move on with their lives once their court matters are concluded.”

In one case, a separated mother and father spent $860,000 in legal costs to determine parenting arrangements for their two children and to settle property.

The matter also involved an independent children’s lawyer.

Family Court justices are also reflecting about the amount of money spent on court cases in their judgments.

Attorney-General Christian Porter recently announced a parliamentary inquiry into family law and child support.
Attorney-General Christian Porter recently announced a parliamentary inquiry into family law and child support.

In one case, Justice Garry Watts told the court, “the parties have not been well served by this litigation”.

“The parties have incurred legal fees totalling $451,607, which exceeds the net assets available for distribution,” he said.

“The parties and their legal advisers might reflect upon this outcome”.

University of Queensland head of law Professor Patrick Parkinson said legal costs in family disputes were extraordinary.

“In our research on relocation disputes, 11 out of 80 parents ended up having to sell their home to pay legal fees,’’ Prof Parkinson told The Courier-Mail.

“Lawyers typically charge by the hour. The longer the case, the more the expense.

“One of the problems in litigation is that only one party has to be unreasonable for the case to drag out.

“In property cases, huge uncertainty in the law is another problem.

“Australia has the most discretionary system in the world.

“In my experience the wealthier the parties the more they have the option to fight every procedural point.

“One case had over 40 hearings and appeals before finally getting to a trial.”

Source : https://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/crime-and-justice/eyewatering-costs-of-family-law-disputes/news-story/edd638dc10b7d0fde64098094c14f20a

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