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How to Afford Legal Fees and Custody

15 Ways to Make Money and Tips to Afford Legal Fees

It took 7.5 years from when I left my abusive ex until I was awarded sole parental responsibility aka full custody. A 5 year protection order is in place as well. Fighting for custody or any legal matter is extremely expensive. Here are my tips, what I did and some links for more help.

This post does contain affiliate links for products or services I have used and recommended. I do not link to anything I have not used or trust.

How To Afford Legal Help

Professionals (lawyers and barristers) have studied for years and know a lot we don’t. But they don’t know your case as detail as you do. In my case, it was essential to have a good lawyer due to how complicated it was.

We were pushed to higher levels of court so I needed a barrister and I was not willing to risk anything. Mentally and emotionally I was not in a position to self-represent but if you choose to do that, still get some help to push you in the right direction.

Legal Aid

You can get free of charge help, however, not all Legal Aid is free. Check the details for your state and territory here.

Community Centres

When I was going through my divorce, there was a community health centre and other community legal help available, particularly for those leaving abusive relationships. This free lawyer helped more than the paid lawyer I looked at.

I had paid $1,000 for help and ended up cancelling them, using advice from the free lawyer at the centre and doing the divorce parts myself.

Police had already taken out the AVO for me before I was able to apply for my divorce. The AVO process with them doing it was free.

Doing it myself later was difficult, so last year when I needed another protection order, I used my lawyer. Personally, the best result was the final protection order with the barrister involved.


Research, research, research. Do all the research you can on cases similar to yours, look for precedents, study the laws relevant to yours and speak with lawyers.

When I was seeking a lawyer in Canberra it was easy as the child protection unit and other departments involved with child abuse all recommended the same law firm.

My lawyer in Canberra was $600 an hour with the first half-hour consult was free and there were other times she didn’t charge me for phone calls etc.

Here in Melbourne, I checked reviews online then went to a site (I don’t remember the name of it now) and typed in my legal matter. I then got calls from a few lawyers about it, they offered their advice and plan of attack.

Do this and you then are armed with more information plus you can choose one of these lawyers or another if you like. I went with one I spoke to.

How To Make The Money For Legal Fees And Custody

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The amount of money spent on legal fees, custody, protection orders and keeping my kids safe is the same as a house. Here is everything I did to make money so I could pay for it. I’ll cover things I did to cut back and save further down.

1. Online Surveys – $2,000 to $5,000 per year

As silly as it might sound, online surveys were the first thing because I was doing them on the side when I was married. He didn’t think anything of them and while I didn’t make heaps, you can make $2,000 to $5,000 a year with them.

Stash that away and cash out when you need or cash out each month and put it in a high-interest savings account. I wrote about the best ones for Aussies here.

The ones which have been best for me are Octopus Group (Australia’s highest paying one), Swagbucks which pays in USD (find a full guide for how to make the most with Swagbucks here), Prize Rebel which also pays in USD.

2. Bank Account Bonuses

You will not get rich doing this and it is not good to open and close a bunch of credit cards etc. I didn’t do credit cards, I opened accounts when there was an incentive to do so.

$100 from ING

ING offers $100 if you open a new everyday account and follow the steps here with the code CNW116. Over the years I have made $100 through to $300 for opening a new account.

$20 from 86 400

I joined 86 400 to try them out about 6 months ago. Another online-only bank that offers $20 when you sign up with the code S7VL6WF here. Fee-free like Up and ING too.

BUT make sure you follow the terms and conditions plus do what you need to avoid fees. This might mean moving money around a bit and can feel pointless.

$5 From Up

I’ve been using Up for over a year now, including overseas and they are great. No fees, easy customer service and the option for multiple savings accounts.

Sign up to a new account and use your card 5 times to get the $10 bonus. Join free here (also, they don’t charge a monthly fee or anything so you won’t be out of pocket!)

3. Look For Lost Money

Check lost super along with your state revenue office. There is a lot of unclaimed money. I have had people find anywhere from $200 through to $20,000. Super is easy, you check through your MyGov account. As for other lost money, check out this post.

On top of that, search everywhere in your house, car, all clothing pockets, bags, under furniture. You’d be surprised where you’ll find random money.

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4. Selling Things Online

When I started I focused on books as I could buy them for $1 and resell for $10 to $20 most of the time. I am selective about which types of books, never buying fiction. Finance, self-help, budget cooking, hairdressing and similar books did the best for me.

Later, I bought things such as Tupperware, brand name clothing and anything else I knew I could flip. In more recent years, rockabilly clothing, camera gear and similar did well for me.

In fact, I have made over $10,000 in a month when I did it properly. It only takes me 3 minutes per listing and I looked for things around the $1 to $5 mark I could resell for a minimum of $50.

Facebook Marketplace and niche selling groups have become the best places for me to sell now. I don’t do it as much anymore because I travel regularly.

5. Sell For Others

Since I was already selling online, this was easy. I sold things leftover from friends businesses and MLM ventures, clothes and even flipped a car. Friends and family asked me to sell their things as I had greater success and we split the money.

6. Blogging

I already had a blog but by 2014 I had a few and was reselling blogs too. To make money blogging I did ads, AdSense, affiliate links, sponsored posts, my own eBooks and services such as freelance writing.

Now, I make most of my money from affiliate links on The Thrifty Issue. Read how to set up a blog and make money here.

For reselling blogs – I’d look for finance-related ones, buy them for a low price, increase their profit then sell them.

7. Freelance Writing

I was approached to write my first freelance article which was great and most of the freelance articles I’ve done over the years are because businesses sought me out.

However, that is not the only way to do it! Freelance writing can pay either really low if you go for those articles when starting out or $1,000+ per article. The higher a publication pays the more competitive it will be and you will need a portfolio. Check out how to become a freelance writer.

8. Mentoring

Back in 2013, I did this for a specific company. Financial mentoring where I would help mainly stay at home mums with their budget, finding ways to make and save money.

Later, I did more of this on a wider scale as well as marketing, business and other mentoring. I stopped offering this due to the level of stress I was under with custody and I didn’t feel I was at my best to help others during that.

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9. Teaching classes

I’ve taught classes on finance, social media, marketing, business and anything else I was asked to. Libraries, schools, community halls and the studio in my home when I lived in Canberra were all suitable.

Think about your skills and what you could teach. I also did public speaking in general but am not including that as something for everyone because most people hate it.

10. Airbnb

$1,300 for 5 days over Christmas, $600+ another week and anywhere from $70+ per night is how much I have made with Airbnb. It’s free to join Airbnb and I have all my top tips to make money with Airbnb on The Thrifty Issue.

11. Odd Jobs

Babysitting, yard work, Airtasker, cleaning, anything. Basically, if I was offered work, especially in the early days, I took it. Later, as I grew my business I focused more on that and looked at what was bringing in the most money. But when I was newly single and needed money, I did anything I deemed reasonable.

12. Medical Testing – $4,050

This wasn’t strictly for legal fees and isn’t something I recommend doing generally. The one I was involved in was for a condition I have, testing a product already on the market so we knew the side effects.

My group were the 10th group to go through, so 150 had already done it. I wrote about my experience and tips for medical testing on my other site.

13. Market Research – $100 per hour

I probably only did 6 or so of these but the pay is good, usually $100+ per hour. Farron Research was the one I did the most with. Read more about it here.

14. Rented Out My Garage

In Sydney, I rented it to a single mum to use for her sewing business. In Canberra, I rented it out for storage and in Melbourne, I rented it out for someone to store their spare car. Each time it was around $50 a week. In Melbourne, I could have charged more.

15. Other Things

There are so many ways to make money such as renting out your car, becoming a virtual assistant and more. Two articles which you might like are:

43 ways for single mums to make money

How I made $33,277.57 on the side!

How I Saved Money For Legal Fees And Custody

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As mentioned earlier, I did what I could myself and there is free help available. Since I was paying for most of my legal help out of my own pocket I set up a high-interest savings account for it and looked at where I could cut back.

Going over every area of my budget I found quite a few areas I could improve on plus accessed a bunch of freebies to help.

1. Do A Full Financial Review

I do this annually anyway, last year I saved $4,765 doing my annual financial review. Compare insurance, electricity, phone, rent/mortgage, everything. Use my review as an example and see how much you can save.

Whenever you make a saving, actually put that money into your savings account. It’s too easy for the money to be frittered away otherwise.

2. Freebies

Sign up for birthday freebies and discounts. Look for coupons and discounts on everything (see a full list for Aussies here). Register for cashback sites and make use of them. Also, check out the full list of Aussie freebies from The Thrifty Issue.

Also, look at how to get a discount on everything.

3. Have A Reward And Splurge

Typically, all money that comes in, whether it is work-related or bonus cash I split. At least 10% is savings, 10% invested, 10% charity and 10% to do whatever I want. The rest is either daily living expenses or straight to savings.

Having that 10% to do whatever I want with reduces the feeling of being deprived, it means we can have takeout sometimes and do fun things without feeling guilty.

I know when I was saving for court, I put everything towards it and felt guilty if I spent money on anything else. You are allowed to spend on yourself!

Also, little rewards. Aside from custody, which is obviously the main goal, having smaller rewards helps with feeling like you are getting there and keeps your spirits up.

How did you pay for legal fees or custody?

I will add a disclosure – I am extremely privileged in that I had the option to borrow from my parents at any time as well if needed. After 7 years of it, I was mentally, emotionally, physically and financially exhausted.

So I did borrow from them in the final stages and allowed myself some breathing room instead of spending every waking moment making money or stressed out. 

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