The law relating to divorce and property settlements now covers de facto relationships and demands the parties undertake dispute resolution before filing for divorce. The only ground for divorce is irretrievable marriage breakdown; certain conditions, for instance around separation, must be met.


Noah Eidelson


Costs and fees

Generally, each party to proceedings under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (‘FL Act’) pays their own costs (s 117). However, the court can order one party to pay costs, after considering:

  1. the financial circumstances of each of the parties; 
  2. whether any party is receiving legal aid;
  3. the parties’ conduct 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 offer in writing of settlement has been made; and
  7. any other relevant factor. 

One person may offer to settle the proceedings. When the court considers the case before it, it does not have notice of the offer until the case is concluded and the question of costs is raised (s 117C).

If the matter before the court is frivolous or vexatious, 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 court’s rules.

The FL Act 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.

Check the fee scales for the Federal Circuit and Family Court with the court.

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