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Family Law in Canberra – Government’s divorce fee increase challenged

By July 29, 2015No Comments

It’s been quite a roller coaster ride for applicants lately in terms of what to expect in family court fees!

First, the Government introduced a “divorce tax” fee increase, but had it knocked back in the Senate. Then the Government rushed through a similar fee increase, and now the Government is being taken to the Federal Court in a challenge to the legality of that fee increase.

The “divorce tax” fee increase has seen the cost of divorce applications rise by 42%, but if its legality is successfully challenged, the Government may be forced to repay applicants who paid the new increased fee.

As of 13 July, divorce fees rose from $845 to $1,200, issuing a subpoena went up from $55 to $125, and amending a court application attracted the new fee of $125. For concessional applicants, much lower fees apply.

At issue is the way the Coalition Government introduced changes to court fees on 12 July, effective from the next day, directly after the Senate had disallowed a similar regulation. Labor and the Greens say that the Government has ‘reintroduced similar regulation within six months of the original regulation being knocked back’, which would render the legislation invalid.

The legal firm running the Federal Court challenge, Maurice Blackburn in Queensland, argues the Government has to ‘do things properly, including not bypassing the Senate’.

Labor and the Greens will join up again to continue the fight against what they term the ‘divorce tax’ when Parliament resumes on 10 August.

“Regardless of the result of the court challenge, we will move to disallow this divorce tax regulation in the next sitting of parliament. The people affected can’t afford to wait, ” Labor’s Penny Wong said. The Government in turn argues that the new regulation was substantially different from the previous one because the fees listed were higher, so it did not need Senate approval.

In the meantime, with all the confusion about the new fees, please do not hesitate to contact Cristina Huesch or any of our team here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400 for clarification or further advice.

At the end of the day, if you and your Ex can agree to split the fees of a joint divorce, you will be doing things as cost-effectively as possible in the first place. If you can agree to wait until you have been physically separated for at least 12 months, you save the costs of your lawyer drafting an affidavit as to separation under one roof. If you do all you can to avoid court (see our section of collaborative practice), you save further court fees on applications, responses, subpoena costs, hiring expert witnesses and so forth.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/jul/24/labor-and-greens-challenge-coalitions-divorce-tax-in-federal-court

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