Divorce Costs Rise After 2015 Budget

18th May 2015

By Lisa Wagner

Family law costs are understandably a big consideration for a couple when they separate.

Putting aside for a moment the costs of your family lawyer, court fees in the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court place a significant financial burden on families facing separation.

If you are looking to file an Application for Divorce in the Federal Circuit Court a filing fee of $845 is presently payable. Unless you qualify for the limited fee relief that is available these court costs are payable whether you file the Divorce Application solely or jointly with your former spouse.

Fees are also payable to the Court at various stages of all family law proceedings. Currently these fees include:

  1. A fee of $320 if you wish to file an Initiating Application in the Federal Circuit Court for parenting orders;
  2. A fee of $155 if you wish to file Consent Orders in the Family Court;
  3. A fee of $55 if you wish to issue a Subpoena in the Federal Circuit Court; and
  4. A fee of $805 per day if you are the Applicant in Family Court proceedings and your matter is listed for final hearing.

It is easy to believe that these court costs quickly add up and over time, if your family law matter does not resolve, these fees can amount to thousands of dollars.

The 2015 Federal Budget Papers reveal that from 1 July 2015 the Government is looking to raise these fees even higher.

What will this mean?

It is yet to be seen what impact these anticipated fee hikes will have on separating families.

Most likely huge jumps in family court fees will further impair access to justice for many already marginalised families.

This may spur separating couples to explore alternate dispute resolution and other “out of court” options to resolve their family law disputes. Increasingly we are seeing family mediation and collaborative practice as popular avenues for separating couples looking to keep their family law costs down. Our divorce lawyers are highly experienced in “out of court” family law settlement negotiations.

The increase in fees may also act as a greater deterrent to some families making them less likely to properly document their negotiated agreements in Consent Orders. As a consequence many families may miss out on the necessary protection and certainty that Consent Orders can provide.

Choosing not to document a family law settlement properly can have long lasting, serious and unintended consequences. It may mean that your former spouse comes back down the track and tries to make a claim against you or even your Estate when you thought that “that part of your life” was behind you. Without a property settlement being formally documented you will not have available to you many stamp duty and other tax concessions that may otherwise apply.

It can only be hoped that some of this revenue raising will be returned to the Court itself and provide crucial additional funding necessary to adequately resource the Court’s administration. In turn an increase in court resources may have the benefit of reducing the current waiting times that parties face when they separate and are required to approach the Court for relief.

Presently these delays in the Sydney Registry of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court extend beyond a year. Many separating couples hope to resolve their matter quickly so that they can move forward with their lives. All court delays add to frustrate and undermine this desire to achieve an early closure after separation.

Even though we have very little control over the Federal Budget there are some steps you can take to manage these creeping court costs. If you would like specialist family law advice about your separation and divorce so that you can contain your overall legal costs then contact us at Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers on enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au or call 9437 0010. We have Accredited Family Law Specialists and Registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners here to help you.

These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.

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