Family Lawyers Competing in a Static Market

Posted at Legal Practice Intelligence - 24 October 2016

Based on current estimates, for every 10 marriages in a year there are four divorces. Described in this way, the number of divorces seems high.

However, the number of divorce filings have been fairly static over the past few years, varying in the range of 45,000 to 50,000 per annum.

The Divorce rate (as a percentage of the Australian population) has been in a downtrend for the past 15 years. Over this period, divorce numbers shot up twice. Both occasions followed economic upheavals marked by upturns in unemployment (2001 and post 2008 GFC).

Crude divorce rates, Australia (ABS)

The graphs highlight the counter-cyclical trend of marriage breakups to the state of the economy. Of all the economic factors that correlate to divorce numbers, rising unemployment may provide the closest correlation.  

Total divorces granted, Australia (ABS)

In early 2014, it was reported by the Family Court of Australia that of the approximate 45,000 annual divorce applications, almost 70% have no legal representation.

There has been an increase in the range of resources for the self-represented and for those who want to know how the family law system works. A recent example is eFiling your family law matter in the Commonwealth Courts Portal (YouTube video).

The latest of these resources is a 66 page e-book Parenting orders – what you need to know, published by Attorney-General’s Department.

By the measure of divorce applications, the market for family law legal services looks to have been fairly static over the past few years. However, the value of assets being divided up in property settlements would have increased substantially due to the capital gains of home dwellings. While the number of divorces has been static, the value of that work has increased when real estate is involved.

It may be the case that the majority of people who are getting divorced are experiencing financial distress which turns them away from using lawyers altogether. One of the greatest opportunities, which is not a new opportunity, is to create and offer limited scope services to this group of potential clients.

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