Lawyers Drooling At Family Property Law Changes
“Lawyers expect a revenue bonanza from the Property Relationship legislation the government is determined to force through before Christmas,” ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said.
“If only one quarter of the country’s 120,000 de facto couples try to contract out of the new law next year there could be $60 million in extra revenue for the country’s lawyers. There are about 700 family lawyers so from that business alone, they could each gross an extra $85,000 average.
“Over the last month I have spoken to many lawyers. They think the Property Relationships Bill has some absurd provisions. They are quite prepared to say so but at the same time they can’t hide their glee at the revenue prospects.
“De facto couples who want to preserve their current arrangements can’t avoid lawyers. “The Law Society confirmed to the select committee that legal advice will cost between $250 and $2,000 for each de facto partner - for reasonably straightforward cases. Where there are company shares, or trusts are required, it will cost much more.
“Contracting out will only work if each has a separate lawyer. Two lawyers in the same firm can’t do it given the conflicting interests between the partner giving up rights to take half the other partner’s assets, and the partner trying to protect her house or the expectations of her children.
“This legal appetiser comes just from couples who want to stay as they are now, and who agree with each other. The main course will be the boom in court cases and in separations. The dessert comes from family asset restructuring to avoid the risks that future opt out contracts will not be upheld.
“All of this was quite unnecessary. Parliament should have simply made the law apply to relationships starting after the commencement date of the Act,” Mr Franks said.