Each person ordinarily pays their own legal costs in Family Law proceedings.
Section 117(1) of the Family Law Act 1975 ('the Act') provides that each party is responsible for their own legal costs.
The court has discretion to make an order as to costs if there are circumstances that justify an order, section 117(2) of the Act.
The matters that the court take into account when exercising their discretion are set out in section 117(2A) of the Act and are:
- The financial circumstances of each of the parties to the proceedings;
- Whether any party to the proceedings is in receipt of assistance by way of legal aid and, if so, the terms of the grant of that assistance to that party;
- The conduct of the parties to the proceedings in relation to the proceedings including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the conduct of the parties in relation to pleading, particulars, discovery, inspection, directions to answer questions, admissions of facts, production of documents and similar matters;
- Whether the proceedings were necessitated by the failure of a party to the proceedings to comply with previous orders of the court;
- Whether any party to the proceedings has been wholly unsuccessful in the proceedings;
- Whether either party to the proceedings has made an offer in writing to the other party to the proceedings to settle the proceedings and the terms of any such offer;
- Such other matters as the court considers relevant.
Client legal costs with their lawyer are determined under the Legal Practitioners Act 1981. A family lawyer must disclose to their client the basis on which legal costs will be calculated and provide an estimate of the range of costs they may incur.
If you are not happy with the fees charged by your lawyer, you should first explain your concerns to your lawyer and attempt to resolve the dispute.
The Court is not responsible for overseeing private fee arrangements between a lawyer and client.
If you believe that you have been overcharged by your lawyer you may complain to the Legal Profession Conduct Commissioner.