What is the Court's role in relation to legal costs?

In general federal law proceedings the court normally awards costs to a successful party. They are intended to reimburse a party (usually the successful one) for their legal costs.  The costs awarded are normally only part of the costs incurred. These are referred to as party-party costs. Costs may be awarded before a final hearing; for example if a party has not complied with a timetable and the other party brings the matter back to court for further directions.

Indemnity costs – the court can award all costs reasonably and properly incurred where the conduct of a party warrants such an order being made. These costs are most frequently awarded when a party has declined an offer of settlement and has been awarded a sum less than that offered.

The court is not responsible for overseeing private fee arrangements between a lawyer and client - refer to rule 21.09(3) of the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001. These are referred to as solicitor-client costs. If you wish to dispute the fees charged by your lawyer, you need to contact the law society or institute in your State or Territory.

How does the Court make a party-party cost order?

The rules in relation to party-party costs are found in Part 21 of the Federal Circuit Court Rules.

Unless the court otherwise orders, the appropriate scale for a party-party costs order (other than bankruptcy) is the event-based scale in Schedule 1 of the Rules. 

Bankruptcy costs – a party entitled to costs in bankruptcy proceedings is entitled to costs in accordance with the Federal Circuit Court (Bankruptcy) Rules 2006.

The court has a general discretion to depart from the fixed event-based scale. Sometimes the court may order that a specific amount of costs be paid. In these situations, the Judge may assess the costs by using:

  • the costs rules of the Federal Court, or
  • another method for determining the amount of costs.

Taxation of costs in the Federal Circuit Court is only possible when costs are fixed according to the Federal Court scales. There is no provision for taxation of costs if they are fixed according to Schedule 1. Judges will determine disputes about the calculation of costs under Schedule 1.

How can I dispute the fees charged by my lawyer?

If you are not happy with the fees charged by your lawyer, you should first explain your concerns to your lawyer and attempt to resolve the dispute.

If you are unable to resolve the dispute directly with your lawyer, contact the law society or institute in your State or Territory. Each law society or institute has different procedures and timeframes in place for challenging the fees charged by your lawyer.

For a list of law societies and institutes in your State or Territory, visit the court's website at www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au

Schedule 1: Party-Party Costs

See: Part 1 — Family law proceedings and general federal law proceedings

(the amounts in this schedule are inclusive of GST)

Work performed

General federal law

Stage 1: Initiating or opposing application up to completion of first court day

Lump sum
Plus: Court attendance

Daily hearing fee

Stage 1A: Initiating or opposing application which includes interim orders (other than procedural orders) up to completion of first court day

Lump sum
Plus: Court attendance

Daily hearing fee

Stage 2: Interim or summary hearing – as a discrete event
(This stage applies to an interim application, or a summary proceeding of a type not otherwise addressed in this fee structure.  It does not include the stage 1 or 1A component.)

Lump sum
Plus: Court attendance

Daily hearing fee

Stage 3: Up to and including conciliation conference

Lump sum

not applicable

Stage 4: Dispute resolution litigation intervention

Lump sum


Stage 5: Preparation for final hearing
For a 1 day matter:

Lump sum


For a 2 day matter:

Lump sum
Preparation each additional hearing day


Stage 6: Final hearing costs for solicitor

Attendance at hearing
To take judgement and explain orders

Daily hearing fee

Additional events
Stage 7: Application for family law location, recovery or enforcement of an order
(This stage applies to an application where there is an existing court order.)

Lump sum
Court attendance

not applicable

Advocacy loading

Increase relevant daily hearing fee


Daily Hearing Fee

Short mention
Half-day hearing
Full-day hearing


Court fees and other fees and payments, to the extent that they have been reasonably incurred

Photocopying per page


Agents fees/travelling costs

Increase lump sum fee by


2 hours travel is the benchmark. There is no entitlement to an increase in lump sum for under 2 hours travel time.

This fact sheet provides information only and is not a substitute for legal advice.

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