Lawyers, costs and legal aid

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    You should speak to a lawyer before applying to the Federal Circuit and Family Law Court of Australia. If you can’t afford a private lawyer, you may be able to get legal advice from Legal Aid Queensland or a community legal centre.

    You can choose to have a lawyer represent you in your family court case or you can represent yourself.

    The law and court processes can be complex so you should get legal advice.

    You may also be eligible for legal aid for representation.

    Contact us for more information.

    Seeing a lawyer

    It’s a good idea to speak to an experienced family lawyer before making any important decisions. A lawyer can:

    • explain what you may be entitled to when dividing your property and your responsibilities and obligations when resolving your parenting arrangements
    • discuss your situation, which may involve complicated legal issues
    • tell you about issues you may not have thought about
    • help you to negotiate in a dispute.

    Don’t rely on family and friends for legal advice.

    Search for a lawyer in your area.

    Representing yourself

    You don’t have to use a lawyer for your court case — you can choose to represent yourself in court. If you can’t afford a lawyer and are not eligible for legal aid you may not have a choice. People representing themselves in court are called self-represented litigants.

    If you represent yourself, you will need to know about the law and the court process.

    It’s not easy representing yourself. You’ll need to do your research and preparation well before filing court documents and presenting a case in court. The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia website has information for people representing themselves in court.

    Legal Aid Queensland or a community legal centre can also give you information and advice.

    Who pays the costs?

    Legal costs

    In family law cases, you usually pay your own legal costs and court fees. In some situations, the court may order one side to pay the other side's costs. You are usually only awarded costs if you've had to pay for a lawyer. You won't be awarded costs for your own time and effort.

    If you are representing yourself, it is important that you follow the Family Law Rules and the Central Practice Direction and any other practice direction that may apply to your matter.

    A failure to comply with court requirements set out in the Family Law Rules or court practice directions may result in an order for costs.

    Filing fee costs

    The Federal Circuit and Family Court have fees that are payable in court proceedings.

    You can apply to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia for an exemption from paying court filing fees. Contact the court for more information.

    If you are approved a grant of legal aid, you (and not Legal Aid) are still responsible for any court filing fees which may apply.

    Getting legal aid

    If you've got a legal problem, you can get free legal advice from Legal Aid Queensland or a community legal centre.

    If you need a lawyer, but can’t afford to pay, you may be eligible to apply for legal aid . This means we may pay some or all of your legal fees if your case and personal circumstances meet our guidelines, including ‘means’ and ‘merit’ tests.

    The following lawyers do legal aid cases — search for a lawyer in your area .

    If you’re not eligible for legal aid and you still need legal representation (not just legal advice), contact the Queensland Law Society for a list of private family lawyers in your area.

    Other legal help

    Some lawyers are willing to help people with different parts of their legal case. For example they may be able to help with drafting your court documents even though you may choose to represent yourself. Alternatively they may help with negotiating on your behalf even though they don't formally represent you. These types of firms will help people who can't afford full representation. You should contact the Queensland Law Society for more information.

    Disclaimer: This content is for general purposes only and not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, please contact us or speak to a lawyer. View our full disclaimer.

    Last updated 31 January 2023