Guideline 17 – family law costs management

Guideline 17 – family law costs management

17.1 – cost management principles

Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) will apply cost management principles to all family law or child support matters where a grant of legal assistance is made. A costs cap is the costs limitations on a grant of legal assistance.

Applicable costs caps are discussed in:

The costs of a matter means the total costs paid by VLA in a family law or child support matter in which a grant of legal assistance has been made. This also takes into account the costs paid by any other legal aid commission, if the matter has been transferred from one or more of the States or Territories.

Calculation of the costs of a matter includes counsel’s fees and fees for expert reports and other disbursements (except interpreter and translator fees, rural travel and accommodation costs), less any contributions collected or costs recovered by any legal aid commission from the legally assisted person.

VLA will treat the following proceedings as a new matter for the purposes of the family law costs management methodology:

  • recovery
  • location and/or information order relating to the location and/or recovery of a child
  • appeals
  • enforcement proceedings.

17.2 – limit on costs

The payment of costs in a family law or child support matter is limited to the Cost ceilings for Commonwealth family law matters, regardless of whether legal assistance is provided by VLA’s in-house service or a private lawyer.

The limit on costs does not apply to grants of legal assistance to independent children's lawyers.

17.3 – if costs are likely to exceed limit

The costs cap for a particular grant of legal assistance may be increased if VLA decides that undue hardship would be caused if further assistance is not provided. In making this decision the following factors will be considered:

  • whether the applicant has incurred significant additional costs due to the Commonwealth's special circumstances
  • whether it would be unreasonable to expect the applicant to adequately represent themself due to special circumstances
  • whether the costs of the applicant have increased significantly through no fault of the applicant
  • the number and complexity of issues in dispute
  • the likelihood of risk to a child’s safety or welfare.

Before making a decision to increase the costs cap for a particular grant of legal assistance VLA will consider whether it is possible to contain costs by either:

  • providing legal assistance for the matter in-house
  • considering whether alternative means of funding are appropriate, including negotiating a fee package that is not in accordance with VLA’s usual fee scales with a private practitioner.

Any decision made by VLA to increase the costs cap for a particular grant of legal assistance will be subject to strict limits on costs. The nature and extent of the additional cost will be determined by VLA or agreed between VLA and the private practitioner (as appropriate) having regard to the following factors:

  • advice from the court and the parties about the estimated length of time required for the hearing of the matter
  • the number and nature of witnesses who must be called or cross-examined
  • whether the other parties to the matter have legal representation.