Who pays the costs in children proceedings? His Honor Judge Middleton-Roy discusses this in a recent case.
In the recent case of MH v KF, His Honour Judge Middleton-Roy has reaffirmed the Family Court’s position on costs orders within children proceedings. In this case, the father did not return the children to the mother as per the usual contact arrangements due to having safeguarding concerns.
In civil proceedings, the general rule is that an unsuccessful party will be ordered to pay the costs of the successful party, however, clearly in children cases, there is no ‘winner’. The children’s best interests are the most important consideration and therefore the outcome does not reflect one of success.
The normal rule in children cases is that there will be no order for costs, meaning that each parent will pay for their own legal costs associated with the proceedings.
In very rare circumstances, the court can make an order for costs. An example of where a costs order was made can be seen in the case of Timokhina v Timokhin . In this case, the mother sought to involve the Russian authorities in the children proceedings by attempting to bribe a police officer to bring a spurious case against the father to support her case. The mother was found guilty of this offence and sentenced to four years imprisonment. She was initially ordered to pay £109,394 to the father in respect of his legal fees. This was reduced to £78,144 on appeal.
In MH v KF, the circumstances were not exceptional, and in setting out his findings, the judge stated: “In deciding what order, if any, to make about costs, the court must have regard to all the circumstances, including the conduct of all the parties and whether a party has succeeded in part of their case, even if they have not been wholly successful. In respect of the conduct of the parties, this may include conduct before, as well as during, the proceedings, whether it was reasonable for a party to raise, pursue or contest a particular allegation or issue and the manner in which a party has pursued or defended a case or a particular allegation or issue.”
The judge did not award the mother with her requested costs order in this case. The judge commented that the case was not one ‘where it is appropriate to depart from the general principle that each party should bear their own costs’’.