Costs in Family Law Proceedings – What to expect

Family law proceedings can present a stressful and distressing time for the parties involved, and when costs of partaking in such proceedings come to mind, it can be an overwhelming subject to think about. Costs in family law proceedings can be centered around both matrimonial disputes, civil partnership disputes and child arrangements, all of which can present long and tiring trials, which ultimately increase the amount of costs that may be incurred.

Most often than not, costs within family law proceedings are covered by each individual party, and can include things such as court fees, legal advice fees and the costs incurred by gathering the relevant information and evidence needed to present the case.

However, there can be times in which such circumstances allow the courts the full discretion to decide which party must cover the costs of all parties involved. The court can make a costs order against one party to pay all or some of the other party’s legal costs. Such an order is usually made at the end of the proceedings, during the final hearing; but, interim costs orders can also be made at any point, within any court hearing during the proceedings.

It is important for parties to take note of the exemptions and circumstances in which a court can place a costs order upon a party before applying for a costs order through the court. At Greener Costs, we will explain and outline some of the circumstances in which a court can make such a decision, and important things to look out for during the proceedings.


The Courts discretion on costs orders in family law proceedings

Although it is commonplace for each party to bear the costs for their part in the proceedings, the Family Court does possess the discretion to make an order for costs in family proceedings, essentially deciding and making one party cover the costs of both parties involved, in certain circumstances. It is also worth noting that any costs order placed upon a party will still have standing regardless of whether they are receiving legal aid.

There are several reasons a court may make this decision and place a costs order upon a party, but most often, it is due to unreasonable behaviour from a party during the proceedings. It is stated in the Family Procedure Rules as follows:

“The court may make an order requiring one party to pay the costs of another party at any stage of the proceedings where it considers it appropriate to do so because of the conduct of a party in relation to the proceedings (whether before or during them).”

“A failure to openly negotiate reasonably and responsibly in proceedings relating to financial remedies will likely lead to an order for costs.”


How does a court decide on making a costs order

When deciding whether to place a costs order upon a party, the court must consider a number of things regarding the proceedings, though costs orders placed by the court are generally related to a party acting unreasonably during the process. As detailed in the Family Procedure Rules, these are:

  • If a party failed to comply with the rules and conduct of the proceedings, of any court order or of any practice direction which the court feels is relevant to the case.
  • If a party offered to settle at an amount a court deems reasonable, and the other party refused leading to costly court proceedings.
  • Whether it was deemed reasonable for a party to raise, pursue or contest a particular issue or allegation.
  • If allegations made against one party are found to be true, they may be required to pay the costs of the other party.
  • Failure or refusal to engage in alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as mediation in family disputes.

The court will also consider the financial effect on a party if any costs order was to be placed on them.


Case study on unreasonable behaviour and the courts discretion

An example of the courts making a costs order against one party can be seen in the case of G (children) [2013] EWCA Civ 1017. During this case, a costs order was made against a father who was ordered to pay all costs due to him making unfounded and unreasonable allegations against the mother of his children, who he had led into legal proceedings. It is noted that the father seemed to be ‘obsessed’ with the mother and it was inferred by the court that he had only taken her to court as a way of oppressing and tormenting her.

Unsatisfied with the costs order that was placed upon him by the court, the father lodged an appeal by Thorpe LJ but it was later dismissed and further proven that he had acted unreasonably during the legal proceedings.

The court concluded that the father’s uncooperative behaviour consisted of a number of things, including, commencing the legal proceedings in the first place when it had been established that they were unnecessary, using the proceedings as a tool as a way to worry the mother, and ultimately bringing a case that was based on unsubstantiated allegations.

This case goes to show that the general rules of costs do not always have to apply during family law proceedings if the court deems a party to have acted against the rules and regulations of conduct during the proceedings.


How Greener Costs can help

At Greener Costs, we can assist our clients with a range of matters due to the extensive knowledge and experience our Costs Draftsmen and Costs Lawyers possess. Our team are highly capable of assisting you with any matter related to costs in family law proceedings and work tirelessly to ensure you can recoup the maximum amount of costs.

Working in line with best practice guidelines and the procedures set out in the Family Procedure Rules we can provide the relevant advice to your circumstances, regardless of whether you are a paying or receiving party.

We can assist on a wide range of costs services for our clients, from drafting Costs Budgets and Bills of Costs, negotiating on your behalf during proceedings and assisting you with any Points of Dispute or Points of Reply.

Our team can provide law costing services to clients throughout England and Wales and have worked with clients from small businesses to large corporate companies. 

In addition to our drafting services at Greener Costs, we are actively doing everything we can to ensure our business benefits the environment. We are doing this though carbon offsetting of our staff, becoming completely paperless and carbon offsetting through each instruction.

If you wish to speak to a member of the team here at Greener Costs then please contact us at 01204263047 or at or use the online form on our website below.

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