I’m a family lawyer and to be honest I have a hard time understanding what is going on with the cost of divorce and changes to the Court fees. So I can’t imagine how the general population is meant to understand it.

In the lead up to the new financial year, changes to the Court fees cost of divorce which were proposed to take effect on 1 July 2015 meant that the costs of accessing the Family Courts would increase significantly.

The following is a brief table of some of the pre and post 1 July 2015 Court fees:

ItemCost Pre-proposed 1 July 2015 increaseCost post-proposed 1 July 2015 increase
Application for divorce (cost of divorce)$845$1195
Initiating Application – children and financial Orders- final only$530$590
Initiating Application – children and financial Orders- final and interim$640$715
Response to initiating application (FCC & FCA- Final)$320$350
Issuing a subpoena$55$120
Amended applicationNIL$120
Setting down for hearing fee (FCA)$590 (FCC) $805 (FCA)$885
Daily hearing fee (FCA)$590 (FCC) $805 (FCA)$885
Conciliation Conference fee (FCC or FCA)$370$410

*Federal Circuit Court
*Family Court of Australia

Take for example a person who is having a dispute about children’s matters and property matters and an application is made in the Federal Circuit Court; in their initiating application they would need to ask the Court to make final orders for both children and property matters.

Then, if for example there are interim matters to resolve, such as what the children’s arrangements should be until you get to a final hearing, or whether there should be orders made in relation to property (such as for an early property settlement in order to free up cash to pay for the proceedings), they would need to ask for interim orders as well ($715). Then let’s say there is a Conciliation Conference to attempt to resolve the property matters ($410).

If the property matters and children’s matters can’t be resolved in the interim then there would need to be a date set for a final hearing ($885). In preparation for the final hearing subpoenas may have to be issued in relation to the property matters and or the children’s matters (let’s say 5- $600).

Then let’s assume that once the subpoenas are issued, new evidence is uncovered about the assets of the parties (for example, it is discovered that there are hidden assets), which results in one party seeking different file orders about property adjustment from the Court, and perhaps they need to do this by amending their application ($120). And let’s say that a Trial is set down and expected to run for 5 days ($3,540 which is $885 per day, excluding the first day).

Now, almost all Court matters that are commenced resolve somewhere along the way. But if we use the above example, it means that it would cost $6,270 in court fees alone, whereas the fees for the same process would have been $4,235.

Yup- that is a pretty steep increase, and I can assure you that when word was out about the increase which was set to take place as at 1 July 2015, many family lawyers were madly scrambling to finalise applications and have them lodged with the Court before the deadline, in order to save our client’s the increased costs.

So it certainly brought me comfort to know that I didn’t have to advise my clients that if they were going to file any applications with the Court, they should do it before 1 July 2015 in order to avoid the fees.

So now we have to tell our clients that if they want to apply for a divorce and do not qualify for a reduced rate (as many people on average incomes do not), they will have to shell out $1200!

I am told that hope is on the way. Apparently when the Senate meets again in August there is talk that there will be push back from the Greens and Labor.

All I can say for now is…watch this space…

Dara Isaacson

Dara Isaacson