Costs in a Family Law Matter


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Costs in a Family Law Matter

In a recent Family Court matter a father was ordered to pay the mother’s costs in respect to a lengthy parenting matter in the amount of $15,000.

The dispute between the parents had been very lengthy and when the matter commenced, it concerned 2 children both aged about 3. When the final parenting orders were made some 10 years later, orders were made that the children were to live with the mother and spend time with the father on alternate weekends from Thursday after school until Monday before school and for half of the school holidays.

The judge dismissed the application of the father for co-parenting arrangements due to the lack of cooperation between the parties.

The mother sought a costs order of $33,000 against the father.

The judge order that the father pay $15,000 in costs to the mother over a 12 month period. The judge gave the following reasons in making the costs order against the father:-

  • The contrasting financial positions of the parties;
  • The father’s conduct which was noted to be bullish, selfish and inflexible;
  • The father was unsuccessful in his application;
  • The father did not make any reasonable attempt to resolve the matter; and
  • The mother had made a reasonable offer which was rejected by the father.

The trial judge also noted that the father had the financial resources to pay a costs order and his financial circumstances were superior to that of the mother.

The father appealed the cost order.

The Full Court of the Family Court held that the costs order made by the trial judge was not justified. There was no allegation of dishonestly against the father, nor was there any adverse finding as to the father’s conduct during the case.

The Full Court held that in a parenting matter, a costs order should be made only where there are specific circumstances. Examples given were:-

  • A complete absence of willingness to compromise in the face of expert evidence supporting a particular outcome;
  • The making of false allegations;
  • Where one party is clearly motivated by self-interest rather than the best interest of the child.