Court costs and legal fees can be expensive. It is advisable to speak with a lawyer and find out an estimate of your legal costs before you begin legal proceedings. A party to a legal proceeding may be ordered to pay the costs of the other side in some circumstances.
Generally, each party to proceedings under the FLA shall bear their own costs (s 117).
However, if the court thinks it is justified, it may order one party to pay costs, having regard to:
1 the financial circumstances of each of the parties;
2 whether any party is receiving legal aid;
3 the conduct of the parties in relation to the proceedings;
4 whether the proceedings were commenced because of the failure of a party to comply with previous orders;
5 whether any party has been wholly unsuccessful;
6 whether an open offer of settlement has been made; and
7 any other relevant factor.
A party may make an offer in writing to the other party to settle the proceedings and the offer is filed in the court. When the court considers the case before it, it does not have notice of the open offer until the case is concluded and the question of costs is raised (s 117C).
If the matter before the court is of a frivolous or vexatious nature, the court can dismiss the matter and order costs against the applicant (s 118).
Solicitors’ charges for family law matters are governed by Chapter 19 of the Family Law Rules.
The FLA allows solicitors to make a contract to charge more than the existing scale. Before doing so, a solicitor must advise the client to obtain independent legal advice in relation to any such agreement.
The fee scales for the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court are subject to change, and should be checked with the court directly.