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Family Law in Canberra – Divorce Tax article from The Australian

By August 14, 2015No Comments

Attorney-General George Brandis has scored a Federal Court victory against federal Labor MPs who tried to challenge his controversial “divorce tax”, with the judgment delivering him new scope to try again to increase Family Law Court fees.

Federal Court judge John Dowsett yesterday refused to strike down the Coalition’s hike to divorce and other Family Law Court fees, which were knocked over by the Senate this week.

If the Federal Court action had been successful, the courts would have been forced to reimburse to family law litigants the additional fees — about $67,000 a day — collected before the increase was rejected by the Senate on Tuesday.

The fee increases were expected to raise about $65 million over four years and included a lift in divorce application fees from $845 to $1200, and a more than doubling of the cost of a subpoena from $55 to $125.

Labor frontbencher Graham Perrett and senator Claire Moore filed a court challenge last month to the fee hike, arguing it was “the same in substance” as increases already disallowed by the Senate and warning it would disproportionately hurt women and children fleeing violence.

In June, the Senate rejected Senator Brandis’s first attempt to raise the divorce application fee to $1195. A new attempt, raising the fee another $5, was again disallowed by the Senate on Tuesday.

Justice Dowsett yesterday said for a legislative instrument to be invalid, it needed to be “in substance or legal effect, identical” to a measure previously disallowed by the Senate. He said the $5 increase to the fees while “small” was not “insubstantial”.

The decision paves the way for the government to again try to lift court fees by a slightly higher or lower amount, this time by negotiating with the crossbench.

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