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Family Law

Family court fees and costs – what to expect

By September 3, 2020February 23rd, 2024No Comments

Family Court costs orders: We recently wrote about undefended hearings and you may have been wondering if there are any penalties for people who don’t show up for their court proceedings in the family courts. Well, it’s bad enough being completely unable to defend your case—in the case we mentioned last time, the absent father’s material was not even read as he was not there. But there can also be financial consequences in the form of costs orders.

Another case involving a father who didn’t show up for his proceedings has come through the courts, proving that “ostrich mentality” and avoiding court in hopes everything will just go away can come with a nasty sting in the tail in the form of a costs order awarded against a missing respondent in a case.

The matter of Vukoja & Vukoja (court-ordered pseudonyms) that was recently heard in the courts concerned an application for cost made by a mother after parenting proceedings had been conducted on an undefended basis, because the father failed to appear. In the end the mum had been granted sole parental responsibility and custody of the three children. The mother sought costs of $22,701.13. The father was ordered to pay $15,000.

How are family court costs orders worked out?

The Family Law Act 1975 contains a section which covers costs, namely section 117. It provides that each party to the proceedings bears its own costs as the starting point.  

However, section 117 also gives judges the discretion to determine if there are circumstances that justify a costs order being made against a party, to pay another party’s costs. In exercising that discretion, the judge will consider:

  • The parties’ financial situations;
  • If either party is on Legal Aid;
  • The parties’ conduct during the proceedings;
  • Whether proceedings were caused by a party to fail to adhere to previous court orders;
  • Whether any written settlement offers have been made;
  • And any other matters thought relevant.

In this particular case, it was the father’s conduct during proceedings that was the most significant. His failures to engage in the proceedings had caused the mother to incur costs, such as when,

“…the father failed to attend court events, attended late and/or sought that the proceedings be adjourned, causing delay in the resolution of the proceedings. She also details the number of occasions the father failed to comply with directions to file documents resulting in further delays and thus further costs for her”.

Her sole caregiving for the former couple’s kids was also found to be a factor because she was “entirely financially responsible for the parties’ three your children”.

You can read the abovementioned case in full here.

Family court costs orders and fees generally

Find out in detail about the Family Courts’ and Federal Circuit Courts’ fees and costs generally.

With legal fees and costs being what they are, and the risks of costs orders being made, out-of-court settlement is, for most separating couples, the far more preferable option. Why not talk to us about your Alternative Dispute Resolution choices – including collaborative divorce.

Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02 ) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.


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