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Family Law Fees in State of Flux

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By Jeremy Hogg, Lawyer, MST Lawyers

The 2015 Federal Budget announced an increase in filing fees payable in the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court in a move to raise almost $87 million over four years.

The announced price hike did not occur as anticipated on 1 July 2015, however, due to the fee increase unexpectedly being voted down in the Senate, likely in response to public sentiment that an increase in filing fees in the family law courts would have a negative impact on access to justice for lower socio-economic groups.

Increases almost identical to those originally proposed occurred shortly thereafter, however, following similar legislation being introduced and passed without Senate approval.

But matters aren’t settled yet: the Greens and Labor have stated that they will seek to have the increases scrapped when parliament recommences sitting in August this year, whilst the Government has indicated that were the fee increases to be rolled back then cuts would need to be made to the Courts’ budgets, including not replacing retiring Judges and closing Court registries.

Labor has also filed an application in the Federal Court of Australia challenging the legitimacy of the regulations that brought the increased fees into force on the basis that those regulations are materially the same as the regulations previously rejected by the Senate.

It will be necessary for those looking to access the Courts to keep a close eye on the situation to ensure that they can appropriately budget and ensure that any documents filed with the family law courts are accompanied by the correct filing fee.

If you require assistance regarding a family law matter, please contact our Family Law team by email family@mst.com.au or by telephone +61 8540 0200.