General Rules for Costs in Family Law Proceedings
In family law proceedings, such as matrimonial proceedings, the issue of costs can often be significant.
In most cases, parties are responsible for bearing their own costs.
There are some circumstances however, where the Court may make a Costs Order against one party to pay all or some of the other party’s legal costs.
Such an order will usually be made at the final hearing; however, an interim Costs Order may be made at a Court hearing at any stage within the proceedings.
The Court will usually order a party to pay the costs of the other party if they have acted unreasonably throughout the proceedings or Court process. Costs will be payable regardless of whether a party is in receipt of Legal Aid. It is stated within the Family Procedure Rules that;
“a failure to openly negotiate reasonably and responsibly in proceedings relating to financial remedies will likely lead to an order for costs.”
Examples of Unreasonable Behaviour in Family Law Proceedings
All or some costs in family law proceedings incurred by one party may be enforced against the other party if the other party has been found to have acted unreasonably. Some examples of unreasonable behaviour in family law proceedings are listed below:
- Failure or refusal to engage in alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as mediation in family disputes.
- One party making unfounded allegations against the other.
- A party’s refusal to attend Court hearings or any other required appointments related to the proceedings.
- If allegations made against one party are found to be true, they may be required to pay the costs of the other party.
The Court’s Discretion of Costs in Family Law Proceedings: KS V ND
In the case of KS v ND (Schedule 1: Appeal: Costs)  EWHC 464 (Fam), a mother was ordered to pay £13,000 of the father’s costs. The case was an appeal regarding a father’s contribution towards school fees for both party’s seventeen year old son.
Mr Justice Mostyn made the Order for costs against the mother as the legal costs incurred in the case “completely dwarf the sums “which the mother was seeking from the father. Mr Justice Mostyn stated:
“Time and again judges point out the madness of litigating in this way; and time and again their admonitions fall on deaf ears. At the end of the day, all we can do is to express concern about such extreme folly, and if it is ignored, then the parties will have to live with, and take responsibility for, the consequences of their decisions.”
This case highlights the extent of the Court’s discretion to make an Order for Costs where they see necessary. It also reminds us of the risks regarding legal costs in family law proceedings.
Unreasonable Behaviour in Family Law Proceedings: The Matter of G (Children)
In the case of G (Children)  EWCA Civ 1017, a Costs Order was made against a father after he made unfounded allegations against the mother of his child.
The father was seen to be “obsessed” with the mother, and the Court alleged that the father was using the proceedings as a way of intimidating and harassing the mother.
The father was granted an appeal for the Costs Order by Thorpe LJ; however, the appeal was dismissed, and it was held that the father had acted unreasonably within the legal proceedings.
The father’s unreasonable behaviour included; initiating the proceedings when they were completely unnecessary, using the proceedings as a weapon to harass the mother and, bringing a case which had no merit and completely unfounded allegations.
The Law on costs in such cases can be seen HERE