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Family matters - legal practitioner fees

Fees for Commonwealth law matters for approvals made on or after 1 July 2014

Family Matters – Practitioner Fees

  1. Solicitor Fees
  2. Counsel Fees
  3. Travel Entitlements

1. Solicitor Fees

The solicitor fee scale is divided into the following categories:

  • Family Dispute Resolution
  • Family Court and Federal Circuit Court
  • ICL
  • Local Court
  • Miscellaneous

Within each category a number of stages of funding are available.

Fees are calculated on a lump sum basis according to the guidelines set out below.

Guidelines for solicitor fees

(a) The lump sum fee is calculated to an hourly rate of $150 net.

(b) If there are unforseen circumstances and the hearing exceeds the original estimate, no additional payment will be allowed unless a decision not to make an additional payment would be clearly unjust.

(c) Where proceedings conclude earlier than the original estimate, the lump sum amount will be reduced on a pro rata basis and only the actual time spent will be allowed at the hourly rate.

(d) Agency Work
In ordinary circumstances, a practitioner is not entitled to claim additional funding to instruct an agent. Where an agent is retained because the assigned practitioner is unavailable, the agent must be a panel practitioner and must be paid out of the assigned practitioner’s lump sum fee for any court attendance up to the hearing stage.

Mentions: An additional allowance to instruct an agent at a mention will not be approved unless the practitioner can show that the matter is complex enough to justify an instructing allowance and:

  • Legal Aid NSW is satisfied that engaging an agent is an economical use of legal aid funds; or
  • exceptional circumstances exist.

Hearings: The use of an agent at a hearing will only be approved in exceptional circumstances. If a practitioner cannot attend a hearing it may be considered more appropriate for the matter to be reassigned to an available panel practitioner.

(e) Other Items

Items not specifically included in these guidelines are subject to separate negotiations.

(f) Application of the stage of matter model

  • If there is a change of solicitor, the model applies as if there were no change of solicitor and payments will be made on a pro-rata basis for work completed for each stage.
  • If a legally aided client loses contact with the solicitor, payment for the work completed will be on a pro rata basis to be negotiated with Legal Aid NSW.
  • If contact is re-established, funding already provided will be taken into account with the guidelines when considering any further grants of aid.
  • The hearing length of a trial will be estimated taking into account the estimate given by the court.
  • If a matter is listed for hearing (final or otherwise) and not reached by the court on the date set, additional funding must be negotiated.
  • Court attendance includes waiting time and appearance in court but excludes travel time. 

 

Stage of matter

Work

Fees

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Stage 1

Fees

Stage 1(a)

FDR early intervention

Taking instructions and preparing for FDR process

$300

Representing client at
FDR process

A fee based on the actual time spent calculated at the hourly rate up to a maximum of 4 hours

Preparing consent orders to reflect agreement reached as a result of FDR process

$150

Stage 1(b)

FDR litigation intervention (including a court ordered mediation conference)

Representing client at FDR process

A fee based on the actual time spent, calculated at the hourly rate up to a maximum of 4 hours

Preparing consent orders to reflect agreement reached as a result of FDR process

$150

For proceedings in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court

Fees

Stage 2

Initiating court proceedings

Stage 2(a)

Initiating court proceedings up to conclusion of directions hearing/s

 

Taking instructions for application or response and for affidavits; communications; preparing court documents; attending to filing and service; all court attendances including directions hearings and mentions; preparing and filing consent orders

$1,350

Stage 2(b)

Initiating court proceedings - up to conclusion of directions hearing/s, including application for interim relief filed at the same time

Taking instructions for application or response and for affidavits; communications; preparing court documents; attending to filing and service; all court attendances including directions hearings and mentions; preparing and filing consent orders

$1,350

Court attendance at defended interim hearing

A fee based on the actual time spent, calculated at the hourly rate up to a maximum of 5 hours

Drafting a Form 4 notice (Notice of Child Abuse or Family Violence)
Note:

  • This fee can only be claimed for one Form 4 notice per party. Additional Form 4 notices are expected to be covered by the Stage 2(b) lump sum;
  • To claim this fee the Form 4 notice must:
  • be necessary to bring specific allegations of violence or abuse to the attention of the Court in accordance with the Family Court's Family Violence Best Practice Principles;
  • contain allegations not previously pleaded in the matter; and
  • be accompanied by an affidavit in support detailing the allegations made in the Form 4 notice

$150

Stage 2(c)

Interim or summary hearing - as a discrete event

Taking instructions for application or response and for affidavits; communications; preparing court documents; attending to filing and service; all court attendances including directions hearings and mentions; preparing and filing consent orders

$900

Court attendance at defended interim hearing

A fee based on actual time spent, calculated at the hourly rate up to a maximum of 5 hours

Stage 2(d)

Up to conclusion of conciliation conference (if any)

File management; taking instructions; court attendance; consent orders

$450

Stage 2(e)

Application for recovery
order where there is an existing court order

Taking instructions for application or response and for affidavits; communications; preparing court documents; attending to filing and service; all court attendances including directions hearings and mentions; preparing and filing consent orders

$450

Court attendance

A fee based on actual time spent, calculated at the hourly rate up to a maximum of 5 hours

Stage 3

Preparation for hearing

Taking instructions; interviewing witnesses; preparing documents including affidavits; preparing client for family or expert report process; issuing subpoenae; preparing trial documents; preparing and delivering brief to counsel; reading family or expert report; conference with counsel; preparing and filing consent orders

A lump sum fee based on estimated preparation time calculated using the hourly rate

Stage 4

Attendance on hearing

Stage 4(a)

Attendance each day of hearing

A fee based on actual time spent, calculated at the hourly rate up to a maximum of 5 hours per day

Stage 4(b)

Taking judgment and explaining orders if judgment listed on a separate day

$150

Stage 5

Appeals

Stage 5(a)

All work up to and including the hearing of appeal to the Full Court

$1,500

Stage 5(b)

All work up to and including the hearing of appeal to a single judge

$1,800

Stage 5(c)

All work up to and including hearing of application for special leave to appeal to the High Court

$1,800

Less Adversarial Trial

To cover intake stage and all work up to the listing of the matter for hearing including taking instructions; advice and assistance in the preparation of consent and questionnaire documents; all preparation for and initial appearance in the Less Adversarial Trial; negotiation; preparing and filing consent orders

$900

Magellan

Taking instructions, advice and assistance in the preparation of court documents, preparation for and all court appearances in the Magellan Program up to the listing of the matter for final hearing; negotiation; preparing and filing consent orders

$1,200 (with a reduced lump sum of $600 being payable where previous funding has been approved prior to the matter entering the Magellan Progam)

Independent Children's Lawyer in Family Court or Federal Circuit Court

Fees

ICL Stage 1

Family Dispute Resolution

Attendance at FDR conference at Legal Aid NSW

A fee based on actual time spent, calculated at the hourly rate up to a maximum of 4 hours

Preparing consent orders to reflect agreement reached at FDR

$150

ICL Stage 2

Initial work

ICL Stage 2(a)

From directions hearing to listing of the matter for hearing

Where an order is made at directions hearing for work up to and including the listing of the matter for hearing, including meeting with children

$1,950

ICL Stage 2(b)

Interim or summary hearing as a discrete event

$900

Court attendance at defended interim hearing

A fee based on actual time spent, calculated at the hourly rate up to a maximum of 5 hours

ICL Stage 2(c)

Where it is necessary to apply to the court for a Chapter 15 Experts report, an allowance to cover all work including court attendance associated with the application (please refer to expert fee scale for amount payable to expert)

$300

ICL Stage 3

To eve of hearing

ICL Stage 3(a)

All attendances, preparation etc to eve of hearing, including meeting with children

$1,350

ICL Stage 4

Attendance on hearing

ICL Stage 4(a)

Attendance each day of hearing

A fee based on actual time spent, calculated at the hourly rate up to a maximum of 5 hours per day

ICL Stage 4(b)

Taking judgment if judgment listed on a separate day

$150

ICL Stage 5

Appeals

 
 

All work up to and including the hearing of appeal to the Full Court

$1,800

Local Court

Fees

Local Court Stage 2(a)

Initiating court proceedings up to conclusion of directions hearing/s

Taking instructions for application or response and for affidavits; communications; preparing court documents; attending to filing and service; all court attendances including directions hearings and mentions; preparing and filing consent orders

$750

Local Court Stage 2(b)

Initiating court proceedings - up to conclusion of directions hearing/s, including application for interim relief filed at the same time

Taking instructions for application or response and for affidavits; communications; preparing court documents; attending to filing and service; all court attendances including directions hearings and mentions; preparing and filing consent orders

$750

Court attendance at the defended interim hearing

A fee based on the actual time spent, calculated at the hourly rate up to a maximum of 5 hours

Local Court Stage 2(c)

Interim or summary hearing - as a discrete event

Taking instructions for application or response and for affidavits; communications; preparing court documents; attending to filing and service; all court attendances including directions hearings and mentions; preparing and filing consent orders

$750

Attendance at the defended interim hearing

A fee based on the actual time spent, calculated at the hourly rate up to a maximum of 5 hours

Local Court Stage 2(d)

Application for recovery order, where there is an existing court order

Taking instructions for application or response and for affidavits; communications; preparing court documents; attending to filing and service; all court attendances including directions hearings and mentions; preparing and filing consent orders

$450

Court attendance

A fee based on the actual time spent, calculated at the hourly rate up to a maximum of 3 hours

Local Court Stage 3

Preparation for hearing

Taking instructions; interviewing witnesses; preparing documents; preparing client for family report process, issuing subpoenas; preparing and filing consent orders

A lump sum fee based on estimated preparation time calculated at the hourly rate

Local Court Stage 4

Attendance on hearing

Local Court Stage 4(a)

Attendance each day of hearing

A fee based on the actual time spent, calculated at the hourly rate up to a maximum of 5 hours per day

Local Court Stage 4(b)

Taking judgment and explaining orders when judgment listed on a separate day

$150

Local Court Stage 5

Transfer from Local Court to Family Court or Federal Circuit Court

Initiating court proceedings in Local Court to the directions hearing in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court

Where previous funding has been approved in the Local Court this stage covers the transfer of the proceedings to the Family Court or Federal Circuit court including taking instructions for application or response and for affidavits; communications; preparing court documents; attending to filing and service; all court attendances including directions hearings and mentions; preparing and filing consent orders

$750

Miscellaneous

Fees

Change of Venue Application

Taking instructions for application or response and for affidavits; communications; preparing court documents; attending to filing and service; all court attendances including directions hearings and mentions; preparing and filing consent orders(fee payable to principal solicitor)

$300

Dissolution of Marriage

With no children under 18 years

$450

With children under 18 years

$650

Enforcement/contravention proceedings

Taking instructions for application or response and for affidavits; communications; preparing court documents; attending to filing and service; all court attendances including directions hearings and mentions; preparing and filing consent orders

$600

Court attendance at defended enforcement/contravention hearing

A fee based on the actual time spent, calculated at the hourly rate up to a maximum of 5 hours

Child support declaration

Child support declaration proceedings brought under section 106A or section 107 of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989

For all work up to and including attendance at the directions hearing following the release of the parentage test results

$600

Consent orders

Lump sum allowance (excluding those consent orders arising from participation in conferencing)

$450

Solicitor appearing as an advocate in a final hearing

Where a solicitor appears as an advocate at the hearing; this funding is only available where Legal Aid NSW is satisfied that:

  • the hearing will be more than 1 day, and
  • the matter raises complex issues

$225 per hour
(to a maximum of 5 hours)

Agency

Additional funding to engage an agent may be approved in exceptional circumstances; this allowance covers the work associated with instructing the agent for up to three appearances pro rata (the principal is to pay the agent for their court appearance from the principal’s lump sum fee)

$150 per hour
(to a maximum of 3 hours)

2. Counsel Fees


Guidelines for counsels fees
(a) Lump sum fees are calculated on the number of hearing days listed comprising a "first day" and a "subsequent day" fee component.

(b) Where a hearing concludes on the first day then only the "first day" component of the lump sum will be paid.

(c) Where the hearing concludes early but on a subsequent day, the fee will be calculated on a "first day" and then "subsequent day" basis paid up to and including the date of conclusion.

(d) Funding will not be approved to brief Counsel in interim hearings.

(e) Funding will not be approved to brief Counsel in a local court except in particularly complex or exceptional cases.

(f) Funding will not be approved to brief Counsel for hearings that do not exceed one day.

(g) Funding will not be approved to brief Counsel by an independent children's lawyer unless the hearing time exceeds one day and the matter raises complex issues of fact or law or there are other exceptional circumstances.



Final Hearings

First day all inclusive fee includes preparation, conferences and hearing

$1,200

Subsequent day all inclusive fee

$965

Appeals before the Family Court or High Court

All inclusive fee includes preparation, conferences and hearing

$2,160

Appeals before the High Court (Senior Counsel)

Appearance in Court

$1,860

Reading/preparation fee

By negotiation

Miscellaneous

 

Chamber work (where prior written approval has been obtained)

$150 per hour

Case outline document preparation

$150 per hour (2 hours maximum)

Other appearance work (where prior written approval has been obtained)

$150 per hour

3. Travel Entitlements

Travel Entitlements in Commonwealth Case and Duty Matters

Travel Allowance

  • A travel allowance is paid if the total return distance travelled from the legal practitioner's office to court exceeds 70 kilometres, and the practitioner is travelling to a court located outside the Sydney metropolitan area.
  • The Sydney metropolitan area includes all courts within the area bounded by:
    • Hornsby;
    • Penrith;
    • Campbelltown; and
    • Sutherland.
  • Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the travel allowance will not be approved where the matter could be assigned to:
    • a practitioner located within 35kms of the court; or
    • a practitioner who is significantly closer to the court; or
    • a practitioner who has other matters at the court on the same day.
  • Prior approval to claim the travel allowance must be obtained from Legal Aid NSW.
  • If travel allowance is being claimed, approval should be sought in the original application.
  • Travel allowance cannot be claimed more than once per day to the same court, regardless of the number of legal aid applicants being represented at that court.
  • Where approved, travel expenses will be paid at the correct rate per kilometre, or where appropriate, a return economy airfare (whichever is the cheaper).

Allowance for Commonwealth Defended Local Court and Children’s Court criminal law case matters

A lump sum of $100 for travel time is paid in addition to the travel allowance of $0.50 per kilometre. The lump sum payment may only be claimed once per day on which travel allowance is payable.

Allowance for Commonwealth Local Court and Children’s Court criminal law duty matters

A lump sum of $100 for travel time is paid in addition to the travel allowance of $0.60 per kilometre. The lump sum payment may only be claimed once per day on which travel allowance is payable.

Allowance for Commonwealth case matters in

  • criminal law - Local Court (committal matters) District Court and Supreme Court,
  • family law and
  • civil law matters

A travel allowance is paid at $0.35 per kilometre.

Accommodation

Where approved, accommodation expenses including sustenance) will be paid as incurred to the maximum rates determined by the Department of Premier and Cabinet of the NSW government. View the current rates.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is travel allowance available for appeals?

Yes, provided the criteria for the travel allowance is met and prior approval is obtained.

If travel allowance is approved for a criminal trial, is an allowance paid for accommodation and meals?

Yes. Actual expenses for meals and accommodation may be payable for each 24 hour period at rates determined by the Public Employment Office of the NSW government. If an accommodation and sustenance allowance is approved, the applicable rate will be provided to you at the time of the grant. All receipts must be provided and actual expenses only may be recovered. Claims for amounts above the rate will not be paid.

My client has asked me to appear for him at a court that is more than 35kms from my office. My client insists that I appear and is unwilling to accept another solicitor. Is the travel allowance available?

Generally a travel allowance will not be approved where a practitioner located within 35 km of the court is available to appear for the client. In exceptional circumstances travel may be approved, eg. where the client is a child, or has a disability, and Legal Aid NSW agrees that continuity of representation is in the interests of the client.

Is travel allowance payable for views?

Yes, however, prior approval for the view must be obtained from Legal Aid NSW and will be limited to views conducted outside the Sydney metropolitan area. Where the distance travelled exceeds a round trip of 70km, the travel allowance for a view may be approved or an appropriate fee negotiated.

How do I calculate the driving/road distance between destinations?

The website http://www.travelmate.com.au may assist in calculating distance between destinations.