Seeking costs in court

This page explains the approach of the courts in ordering that one party pay the costs of another party in disputes relating to a child. It gives examples of when costs have been ordered and the circumstances that the court will consider.

Can I ask for my costs to be paid by the other party in private child law proceedings?

It is rare for a court to order that one party pay costs in private child law proceedings e.g. disputes about child arrangements and parental responsibility. This is because:

  • It could mean there is less money available to meet the family’s needs
  • It can increase tensions between parties which is not in the best interests of the child
  • The threat of paying costs may prevent a person from applying to court.

However, the court does have the power to order costs at any time where it thinks it fair and reasonable to do so. In deciding whether to order costs the court will look at all the circumstances including:

  • Whether a party has succeeded in part of their case
  • The conduct of parties before, during and after proceedings
  • Whether it was reasonable for a party to make or contest a particular allegation or issue
  • The way in which a party made or defended their case, or a particular allegation or issue

The courts have confirmed that ordering costs in children law proceedings is not about punishing a parent and it will only usually be made if a party has acted unreasonably. It does not matter if a party has legal aid or not; a costs order may still be made.

In what circumstances might a costs order be made?

The following are case examples of where courts have ordered costs to be paid by one party:

A parent was ordered to pay costs after they unreasonably refused to attend mediation unless the other parent agreed to a shared residence order. The parent ignored recommendations of the CAFCASS reporter and took advantage of the fact that they had more money than the other parent.

A parent was ordered to pay costs in an intractable dispute about contact with a child where the parent made unfounded allegations of sexual abuse against the other parent.

A parent was ordered to pay costs because they applied for a residence order when it was not appropriate and then failed to take part in drug and alcohol tests and failed to attend interviews with a clinical psychologist.

A parent was ordered to pay two-thirds of the other parent’s costs of a fact-finding hearing where the majority of the allegations against him were proven.