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I Can't Afford My Lawyer's Bill, What Do I Do?

If you and your spouse decide to end your relationship, you can hire an experienced, qualified family lawyer to get everything over and done as quickly and easily as possible.

If you cannot afford a lawyer and you do not qualify for government funded legal aid, you may need to come up with an agreement with your spouse to settle everything out of court.

If you would like the help of a lawyer, there are different aspects of the matter they can help with - or of course your lawyer can assist with the matter in its entirety. You can get the help of a lawyer only to formalise the agreement legally. However, it is always better to consult with a lawyer to make you that you know your rights.

You can find some family lawyers who offer free legal advice on parenting issues like arrangements about children, domestic and family violence and relationship issues like divorce and property settlement.

They also offer valuable advice on child maintenance, child support, child protection and family dispute resolution. 

You can consider using mediation to negotiate and settle. This helps you save some money, but ideally you should be represented by a lawyer at mediation as well as in litigation.

Before hiring a family lawyer to represent you in court, you need to confirm whether he/she charges hourly rates. You also need to ensure whether any other costs are included in the bill. You can ask him/her whether it is possible to work out a payment schedule. For example if your family matter involves the sale of the family home or a significant asset, perhaps your lawyer will allow you to pay for his or her fees when the house is sold.

If you cannot afford to the bill of your lawyer who represents you in court or during negotiation, you need not give up. There are many ways to solve this problem. The best way is to ask the court to order your ex to pay some or your lawyer’s entire bill, as part of your settlement. This isn't guaranteed but could be worth a shot - ask your lawyer about it.

Legal aid is provided in Australia for eligible people who cannot afford to lawyer’s bills. You can apply for a grant of legal aid and use the fund to afford a family lawyer. 

You need to complete and submit an application form along with the copy of income statement, tax returns, bank statements and health care card.

You need to meet some eligibility requirements to get the legal aid. Your income, your assets and your financial obligations are taken into account to determine the amount of legal aid.

In Australia, some guidelines must be followed to determine if a person is eligible for legal aid. Priorities are given in domestic and family violence matters, child protection proceedings and discrimination matters, as state and territory governments realise that these cases require special consideration.

Ultimately, if you cannot pay your lawyer's bill, either with your own money or with the assistance of legal aid, you may be exposing yourself to legal action from your lawyer to recover the debt you owe to him or her. This is a very unpleasant situation to be in, so ensure you are always open with your lawyer about your ability to pay current and future legal bills, to ensure that no misunderstanding occurs and you don't compound your problems.

This article is general information only and is not legal advice. Consult an Australian Legal Practitioner via Love Law Legal Consultations to obtain legal advice for your unique situation.

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