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Already in court or need a court to decide?

Essential info about the court process

Costs you should know about.

When starting court proceedings there are several possible types of costs to consider:

  1. Court Fees 

  2. Fees you may be ordered by the court to pay to experts.

  3. Costs you may be ordered by the court to pay to the other person for their legal expenses - 'court costs.' 

It is possible to get a reduction or an exemption from paying court fees in some circumstances.

Fees you pay to the court

Application for divorce - $1,060

Application for consent orders - $195

Initiating Application (parenting or property) - $550

Initiating application (parenting and property) - $810

Response to Initiating Application - $410

Issue Subpoena - $65

Setting a hearing date - $745 (Div 2)

Fee each day of hearing (excluding the first day) - $745

Conciliation conference - $465 (both people to pay) 

You can apply to the court for a reduced fee by completing an application form found on the court website. 

Fees you may have to pay to experts 

You may need to pay for an expert or the court may order that you pay for an expert including:

  • Hair Follicle Testing (approx. $500-650)

  • DNA testing (approx. $500-600)

  • A report from your current treating psychologist

  • A single expert witness psychological report

  • Independant Children's Lawyer

  • Dispute Resolution not held at court

  • Valuation of property single expert report

  • Process server 

  • Conduct money for gathering information for subpoena's

Legal costs 

Usually each person pays their own legal costs, however, the court can make an order for someone to pay the other person's legal costs where the circumstances justify this. 

As well as anything it thinks relevant the court considers:

  • the financial circumstances of each of you.

  • whether anyone is getting legal aid.

  • The things you have done during the court process, such as whether you have deliberately withheld relevant information from the other person or tried to delay things.                    

  • whether the court case was because someone didn’t comply with previous orders of the court.

  • whether someone was wholly unsuccessful.

  • whether either person made an offer in writing to the other person and what the offer was.


The court process

The average time from giving an application to the court to it being finalised is 14 months

The main steps in the court process are:

1. Pre-action procedures

2. Filing and Service

3. First court event

4. Interim Hearing if necessary​

5. Dispute Resolution

6. Directions Hearing

7. Compliance and Readiness Hearing

8. Final Hearing 


Pre-action Procedures 

Before anyone starts the court process they must:

  • Give the other person relevant documents they have.

  • Invite the other person to mediation (provided it is safe) and get a s60I certificate to prove it.

  • Send the other person a letter ('Notice of Intention') telling them they intend to start court proceedings. 

  • Wait for a reply.


Filing and service

The court process is started by filling out application forms and giving them to the court ("filing"). You get a date to go to court and the documents must be given to the other person ("service"). 


First Court date

Usually online via Microsoft Teams before a Judicial Registrar. No decisions are made about your property or children unless both people agree or a Judge decides it is urgent. 


Interim Hearing

Either a Senior Judicial Registrar or a Judge makes decisions about your children or property that will be in place until the final hearing.


Dispute Resolution

Can be mediation or conciliation conference either within the Court or externally to see if you can agree on an outcome.


Directions Hearing

Usually held online before a Judicial Registrar, can happen more than once. You give the court information about where the case is up to and what needs to happen next. 


Compliance and Readiness Hearing

Online or in person before a Judge to make sure your matter is ready for Final Hearing. Orders are likely to be made for updated evidence and witnesses.  


Final Hearing 

A Judge hears all of the evidence. Both people and any experts may be cross examined. The Judge makes a final decision - they might tell you on the day or afterwards. 

Download our flowchart here:

'Notice of Intention' 

Before you start court proceedings you must give a letter to the other person (a 'notice of intention'). The letter needs to:

  1. Say what it is you can't agree on.

  2. Say what court orders you want.

  3. Make a genuine offer to resolve the problem.

  4. Tell the other person a time within which they must reply

Download court brochures on the pre-action procedures here:

How to start court proceedings

You apply to the Federal Circuit and Family Court with written documents including:

  • Initiating Application   

  • Affidavit  

  • Notice of Family Violence, Child Abuse and Risk 

  • Genuine Steps  Certificate 

  • s60I certificate or affidavit or non-filing

  • Undertaking as to disclosure 


You have to let the other person know you have started court proceedings by giving them a copy of the court documents after you've given them to the court i.e. the documents need to be stamped and include the court date. This is called 'serving' the other person.


Usually, you have to serve the other person by having someone hand the documents to them and then that person completing a form ('Affidavit of Service') to prove it was done. If you can't do this, in your application you can ask the court for an order that you let the other person know in a different way.

Read more here:

Words you might hear - explained 

The Family Court process has a lot of jargon. If you want to know what a Judicial Registrar is, what's going on with 'the parties,' whether 'the applicant' is you, where you can find an ICL, whether you need FDR or are you in the FCFCOA (Div 2) try this fact sheet prepared by the court. 

Download a list of common words explained 

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