Costs and fees for family law actions

Contributed by SallyBolton and current to 1 May 2016

Generally, each party to proceedings under the FLA pays their own costs [s.117]. If the court thinks it is justified, it may in some circumstances make an order requiring one party to pay costs. The factors which will be taken into account are [FLA s.117(2A)]:
  • the financial circumstances of each part
  • whether any party is receiving legal aid
  • the conduct of the parties in relation to the proceedings
  • whether the proceedings were started because one party failed to comply with previous orders
  • whether any party has been wholly unsuccessful
  • whether an offer of settlement has been made
  • any other relevant factor.
It is very rare for the Court to order that one party pay the other party's costs in proceedings about parenting issues. It is more common in property proceedings, particularly when one party made a written offer to settle the matter, the other party rejected the offer, and the Court ended up making orders for less than what the party offered earlier.

The court can also choose to dismiss a matter if it is frivolous or vexatious, and may also award costs against the applicant [FLA s.118].

The court may also make the parties pay the costs of the independent children's lawyer. It is up to the court to determine how much each party shall pay. The court takes into account each party's financial capacity to pay. [FLA s.117(4)].

There are particular rules about costs in contravention proceedings about parenting orders. [FLA s.70NCB and s.70NDC ].


There are court filing fees to start proceedings and more fees at some steps during the court process. People can apply for a waiver (or for some fees, a reduction) including:
  • people who receive legal aid
  • people who receive only Centrelink benefits
  • people for whom the registrar decides to waive fees in cases of financial hardship.
Fees are fairly consistent across the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. Fees can be paid by eftpos, debit card and credit card, but not cash. At the time of publication, common fees were as follows:

Filing an Application for Consent Orders $165

Filing an Application for Divorce $900 (reduced fee $300)

Filing an Initiating Application or Response to Initiating Application $345-685 (depending on the type of orders sought)

Filing a Subpoena $55

Conciliation Conference $395

Daily Hearing Fee in the Federal Circuit Court $630

Daily Hearing Fee in the Family Court $860

Filing a Notice of Appeal to Full Court $1,360

Current fees can be found here.

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